Riders from up and down the country will be swapping boots and breeches for shorts and trainers as they tackle the London Marathon for horsey charities and good causes.
This year’s 26.2-mile challenge takes place on 22 April and more than 40,000 runners will be taking part.
Welfare charity Brooke has two runners taking part to raise funds in its name.
Sixty-year-old horse lover Mike Rowe from Hungerford is running his first marathon for Brooke to mark his recent landmark birthday.
Mike has supported Brooke for over 10 years and decided to sign up after a sightseeing trip to Buckingham Palace.
“It was the day before the London Marathon, with all the flags flying along The Mall I could really feel a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air… and that was it, that was when I decided ‘that’s what I want to do to celebrate turning 60’,” he said.
Top showjumper Scott Brash’s agent Joel Birks (pictured above) is also running for Brooke.
Fellow international equine charity SPANA will be supported by its trustee, Rob Gethen Smith (pictured above).
Rob visited Ethiopia earlier this month to see SPANA’s work in person, and did some training runs while he was there.
“I had the privilege to see first-hand the work that SPANA does and the impact it has,” he said. “I can really see how far our supporters’ money goes to directly improve the welfare of working animals through veterinary treatment but also through educating owners and children how to care for and respect their animals on which they ultimately rely.”
Horse & Hound’s 2017 charity of the year, World Horse Welfare, has several runners taking part in its honour.
Becky Statham, World Horse Walfare’s senior communications officer, has also signed up.
“London Marathon has always been on my bucket list and this was the perfect opportunity to tick it off as well as raising funds for a cause close to my heart both personally and professionally,” said Becky.
Seven individuals, from as far afield as Bermuda, are raising funds for the Donkey Sanctuary.
Bermuda-based Claire de ste Croix will be teaming up with her brother James Tomkinson from Cornwall to take part in the event.
Claire was caught up in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and had just finished the race when the bombs were detonated.
The Donkey Sanctuary was the obvious choice for the pair. The charity is very close to their hearts as it came to their aid many years ago when two of their own rescued donkeys became unwell.
Kimmarie Smith, Lesley Walker, Stuart Hurcomb, Victoria Lack and George Paraschou will also be part of the Donkey Sanctuary team.
Amateur jockey Lucy Wheeler is no stranger to race days and will be taking part in London Marathon for Racing Welfare.
“This year I’m not race-riding so I’ve chosen to swap my saddle for my trainers!” she told H&H.
Emma Murray is running for the Willberry Wonder Pony Charity and will be joined by mascot “Raceberry”.
“Sadly, in 2014 my Dad died after a short battle with cancer,” the amateur eventer told H&H. “So I think any fundraising to help #kickcancersbutt. It is so worthwhile although I have never done any fundraising before.”
The Countryside Alliance Foundation has five runners this year, including eventers Katie Bleekman and Ella McEwen.
The foundation runs three main initiatives; Casting for Recovery — supporting women who have had, or have breast cancer — and Fishing for Schools and Falconry for Schools – helping children, who are often struggling, to re-engage with education and build their confidence and self-esteem.
Phillipa Lord (pictured above and below) had a serious riding accident in 2015 when she broke three vertebrae.
“I was originally told I wouldn’t walk again, but there was a spinal surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth hospital who thought he might be able to fix me, and he did!” she told H&H.
“I am now, just over two years later, running the London Marathon in aid of Spinal Research. I really want to help those who weren’t as lucky as me to get this second chance.”
Event rider and trainer Rae Gatland-Hanlon will also be running for Spinal Research.
“It all happened a bit by accident, one of my clients ran it for a young family member who had had a spinal stroke,” he said. “In November she messaged me to say she had another space and would I be willing to give it a go and seeing as spinal injuries are all to common for riders.
“I have had a few friends who have suffered spinal injuries so it seemed like I couldn’t say no!”
Trainer and dressage rider Justine Sole will be running the marathon for the Lymphoma Association.
Her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour due to lymphoma three years ago, but has since recovered.
In May last year Justine broke her back in a fall.
“In October I was contacted by the Lymphoma Association to be told I had a place in the marathon,” she told H&H. “At this stage I could just about walk but decided to except the challenge.
“I knew it would be hard but also a really good goal to get me back in track. It has done exactly that and I know I would not be where I am today without this goal.”
Fellow dressage rider Olivia Oakeley is taking part in aid of the Meningitis Research Foundation.
“My grandad was an Olympic yachtsman and my ambition is to compete at the top level as a senior rider so he’s always been a huge inspiration in my life,” she told H&H.
“He passed away to septicaemia in December 2016 and my dad survived bacterial meningitis when he was young so it’s a charity I felt had helped my family.”
Horse and dog lover Justin White will be raising funds for the Greyhound Trust.
“The charity only got one place so I will be running solo for the trust,” he told H&H. “I have osteoporosis now so this is not just an ordinary challenge.”
A vital service
Rider and student Esther Anderson is tackling her first marathon for St John Ambulance
“Both on the equestrian and marathon running circuit St John’s are an integral volunteer-led team,” she said.
Louisa Stokes (pictured above) wanted to give something back to Meningitis Now.
“I have several friends who have lost family members or had their lives severely affected by this awful disease,” she said.
“I’m determined to do my bit to raise as much money as I can and raise awareness to help people that may be unfortunate enough to be affected by it in the future.
“ I’m very lucky to have had the fantastic support of the Berkeley Hunt in my fundraising and awareness campaign.”
Amateur eventer Jaide Hartridge has chosen to run for the Mental Health Foundation.
“In April last year a very close friend of mine took his life,” she said. “None of his close friends or his family were aware he was suffering any mental health issues so it was a total shock, but the Mental Health Foundation do some really great work in raising awareness of mental health and helping to reduce (and hopefully eventually eliminate completely) the stigma associated with mental health issues.”
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Rider and owner Alison Bailey will be taking part for Children with Cancer UK.
“It’s been very time-consuming trying to fit in marathon training, four horses, working and being mummy to my and boys,” she said. “Lots of very early starts and late nights to fit it all in but it will be worth it.”
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