A vet is tackling an epic ride with her horse, Marilyn, for a charity that provides animals as companions to improve health and wellbeing. Kate McMorris and her palomino mare will be attempting to ride solo from John o’Groates to Lands End.

On World Vet Day (30 April) Kate and home-bred Marilyn set off on the adventure, prepared to tackle tricky terrain, mountains and moorlands, roads and ravines. The challenge is the realisation of a 30-year-old dream for Kate, who loves the great outdoors.

When she was a veterinary student, Kate decided to ride her pony Sam 200 miles from Halifax to Hadrians Wall. The ride inspired her to ride the length of the UK one day.

Kate riding in Dorset. Credit: Ali Large

Kate has been sharing her veterinary insights into the well-being of her horse, and herself, along the way.

“The recent pandemic era has also made me realise life is short,” she said. “We never know what is around the corner. Like many, I’ve been moved by inspiring stories of human endeavour and wonderful kindness, across the country during Covid. It’s stirred me to see what I might also do to help those charities near and dear to me.

“I have long been aware that it is the contact with animals — whether it is my horses, cats, dog, even the chickens — that gives me peace and amusement in my hectic life. And I want to help others do the same.

“Pets As Therapy is a national charity that strives to ensure that everyone, no matter their circumstances, has access to the companionship of an animal to improve their own health and well-being.

“Vetlife is another charity that is close to my heart. They provide a helpline, along with financial and health support to the veterinary profession which has one of the highest suicide rates of the professions. Indeed, they gave myself and my staff amazing support through a difficult time at the practice a few years ago and I would like to raise funds for them so they can continue to help others”

Money raised from Kate’s journey will be directly used to help the two charities. She explained how she has been preparing herself and her horse for the challenge.

“I have been taking Marilyn to lots of different places so that she does not find it stressful staying in a different place every night,” she said. “I have been making sure she is not completely routine-bound. She has had physio/osteo, farrier, saddle-fitter and dentist appointments. And we are increasing her exercise, both strengthening with schooling and lunging as well as riding longer distances. We will then be introducing more hill work as time goes on and hope to visit a water treadmill frequently.

“For myself, I am having dentist, optician and podiatry appointments. I have lost two stone in weight so far on a healthy eating kick so that Marilyn has less to carry. And we have bought a treadmill so that I can increase the amount of time I am walking despite it being dark outside.

“What could be more appropriate than setting myself an immense challenge, while raising funds for these great causes.”

You can follow Kate’s journey on Facebook and sponsor her here.

Lead image: Kate and Marilyn by Ali Large

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