73-year-old undertakes 1,000-mile trek with two Belgian draughts

  • A heavy-horse enthusiast and her two Belgian draught horses are taking on a 1,000-mile round trip with a gypsy wagon to raise money for the Brain Tumour Charity.

    Daisy Saddler and her horses Olive, 13 and Olive’s half-brother Arthur, 11, and collie-cross Tad left their home town Banbury, Oxon, at the end of April headed for Edinburgh.

    They plan to travel roughly 50 miles a week using the UK’s minor road network, and the trip is expected to take five months to complete.

    Seventy-three-year-old Daisy was inspired to undertake the fund-raising journey by the story of two-year-old Imogen Whitby, a fellow Banbury resident, who died of a brain tumour in December 2017.

    “I’ve always preferred wagoning to riding horses but it was the brain tumour charity that inspired me to do a really long trip,” Daisy said. “A little local lass died and her parents have been so positive getting on with fund-raising, I thought I should do something. The horses weren’t doing a lot and I thought the job would be good for them.”

    Having given up her hobby of club-level motor racing (under her former name of Sue Halkyard), Daisy became involved with draught horses in 1990. She currently runs Sydney’s Exploditions, which provides a horse and carriage service for special occasions such as weddings, village fetes and children’s birthday parties.

    “We do rides and picnics in the summer and I’ve done that quite a long time,” added Daisy, who has owned the Belgian pair since they were imported from Germany in 2013. “This trip is a rather nice change and it’s good to have the horses working every day.”

    The round trip to Edinburgh will not be the first time Daisy has tackled a long journey with a horse and cart, having completed a ten-week trip from Banbury to the Lake District in 2015.

    Although she has been keen to take on another adventure since, she has suffered a number of setbacks including contracting pneumonia in 2017 and Arthur having to undergo surgery for a deep-seated hoof abscess the year before.

    She is travelling in a “modern-age caravan” which has a solar panel on the roof, electricity, indicators, headlamps and “even wifi” and reports that so far the journey has gone smoothly.

    On Thursday (17 May), Daisy, the dog and horses reached Yorkshire, stopping for the night on the outskirts of Doncaster.

    “I’m amazed we have got so far already. I don’t do that much mileage — maybe six, eight or 12 miles a day — but it’s incredible how it tots up,” she said. “It’s been a good trip so far but we’ve got a long way to go yet.”

    Daisy said it is map-reading that poses one of her biggest challenges.

    “We’ve never made a specific plan as it’s something I couldn’t keep to with animals. I like to pace them so we’ll make the return journey,” she explained. “I just plan the route the night before with a torch just peering at a huge OS map. I’ve gone the wrong way many a time!”

    Apart from one hot day when they were faced with a lost shoe and a puncture and ran out of water they have managed to avoid serious mishaps.

    “Every day presents its own challenges,” Daisy said. “Arthur tends to roll like they do and one night I hadn’t realised there was a bank in their make-do field. He rolled on it and ended up rolling down the hill and into the road. Luckily it was quiet but I’ve learned to check for a bank!”

    The group have had help from passers-by, who often bring water, and many have come out to greet them, having found out about their journey on Facebook.

    “It gets around all the villages you go through and they all come out their with cameras,” she said. “People have been very kind and have been dropping contributions in the collection box and on Justgiving.”

    Geraldine Pipping, The Brain Tumour Charity’s director of fundraising, said: “We are hugely grateful to Daisy for raising awareness and vital funds for brain tumours, so that young lives are saved, and more families are spared the heartache caused by this devastating disease.”

    Daisy started her journey on Sunday, 22 April. Followers can track her progress on Facebook and donate to the Imogen Whitby Fund on Daisy’s JustGiving page or by texting SYDS73 followed by the donation amount (example: SYDS73 £5) to 70070.

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