A 22-year-old horsewoman from Devon has completed an epic ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End with two horses to raise money for environmental education around climate change.
The journey involved a temporary bridge built in front of her by Highways England to avoid a seven-mile detour and navigating busy roads where she was “nearly killed by a car” everyday.
Elsa Kent embarked on the challenge, which she named The Climate Ride, on 25 June with her two mares Rosie and Summer. It took the trio 64 days of riding to make the journey, which totalled over 1,000 miles.
“From a young age I’d always known horseback travel resonated with me,” said Elsa, who has worked at horseback safaris across Africa. “I came back from Kenya earlier this year when it was red-listed and had a couple of months before I start my masters, so I though ‘no time like the present’ and just decided to do it.”
Three charities are supported by the money raised: ThoughtBox Education, Kivukoni School Environmental Education Centre and International Environmental Education Festival. At the time of writing, the total raised was £11,074.
‘Method in the madness’
Despite the long distance, very little forward-planning was involved.
“It was very spontaneous,” confessed Elsa. “But there was method in that madness. I’d done research and spoken to many people who have done similar things. I decided I was best off being very flexible, because things change everyday.
“Some days, I’d only do 10 or 15 miles, but other days I could do 30 because the conditions were perfect, with good weather and terrain.”
Elsa’s Quarter Horse, Rosie, is 17 years old, while Welsh cross Summer is a seven year-old.
“Everyone I met said they look phenomenal,” continued Elsa. “They are so fit, and most importantly happy and sound. They were fantastic travel buddies.”
The ride has forged a strong bond between Elsa and her mares.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it before,” she added. “We’re very connected now.”
Where to sleep?
Elsa turned to the kindness of strangers to help her with finding lodgings and grazing each night.
“Scotland was completely remote. At times I’d just ride towards one building in the distance, and get phone numbers to ring ahead and see if someone would have me,” she explained.
“Gaining a following online meant that people were looking out for me, and that helped with finding places to stay and grazing for the horses.
“We turned up at a lot of places, and people would throw a party. They’d feed me dinner and breakfast, sometimes even sending me off with a packed lunch. I met so many amazing people.”
Elsa’s online presence came with some difficulties.
“People would take photos of me without permission,” she said. “I felt like a tourist attraction at times. Horseback was my home for those two months, so it sometimes felt like an invasion of privacy.”
Fraught with danger
“Everyday I was nearly killed by a car,” added Elsa when asked about navigating the roads. “It was absolutely terrifying, and at times I thought ‘why am I risking my life?’
“It’s sad because horse riding is the oldest form of transport, and it’s now so unsafe as a way to travel around the country.”
There was kindness from road-users too. A group of workmen built her a temporary bridge so she could avoid a seven-mile detour.
Elsa also had to navigate swarms of horseflies, broken bridges and deep peat bogs in the Scottish wilderness.
But the trio overcame all obstacles, arriving safely at Land’s End on 5 September.
The future of ‘The Climate Ride’
“I would love for The Climate Ride to continue,” added Elsa. “Maybe next will be Africa or the Americas. Travelling by horseback is a very big part of human history, so I think there will always be a way to do it.”
To donate to The Climate Ride, click here.