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Around 160 hunting and Army horses have been drafted in to help two soldiers complete a 400-mile marathon ride from London to Edinburgh to raise money for military charities.

The Great North Ride takes its inspiration from Sir Robert Carey, who rode this route on the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 to give the news to her heir, James VI of Scotland.

The journey took Sir Robert three days, but 21st-century riders, former cavalry officer Ewen Cameron and current commander of the King’s Troop Major Neil Cross will allow four, leaving on 25 March and hoping to arrive in the Scottish capital today (28 March).

“Sir Robert would have galloped up the compacted earth of the Great North Road,” said Mr Cameron, who has recced the route by bike.

“We will take an alternative trail, trotting on minor roads and cantering up green lanes and bridleways.

“However, fund-raising, not speed is the driver of this project,” he added.

The pair had raised £25,000 before they left — for the charities Combat Stress and the Light Dragoons Colonel’s Appeal — and aim to double that.

Horses are being supplied by supporters along the way and the riders plan to change horses every five miles, from saddle to saddle to save time, spending 10 hours a day in the saddle.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of people offering horses and accommodation,” said PR manager Clare Hibbit, who will follow with the back-up team.

“It’s been a serious feat of organisation. Ewen spent five months planning the route alone — on top of a full-time job.”

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/The-Great-North-Ride, or send cheques made payable to the The Great North Ride to: The Great North Ride Office, GTC West Street, Fontmell Magna, Shaftesbury SP7 0PF.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (24 March, 2011)