A commemorative long distance ride from France to Belgium this September has attracted an international field of 60 riders.
Organised by the International Cavalry Association (ICA), the 100kms ride called “The Pursuit to Mons”, starts in Cambrai on 17 September, finishing in Mons, Belgium on 22 September.
The brainchild of Stanley Watts, the ride follows the route of the Allies as they drove the German army back through Belgium at the end of the First World War.
Coming from Canada are 14 serving or retired soldiers from two units, the 1st Hussars and Lord Strathcona’s Horse.
The Canadians led by Colonal Allan Finney are travelling with all their kit, including saddles, but are being provided with horses by the ICA.
Lord Strathcona’s Horse stopped the German advance at Amiens in 1918, when the regiment’s horsepower proved vital against the opposition, who lacked sufficient cavalry troops as all of their horses were in draft.
“We’re following the canals exactly as the Canadian cavalry did in the First World War,” said Graham Langer, who is organising the horses for the Canadians and other international riders and is taking part himself on a hireling.
The dozen British riders taking part are all bringing or hiring horses from the UK, but Langer is sourcing horses from France and Belgium from some of the international riders.
These are coming from Russia, Australia, USA, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland and Sweden and are all dressing in period dress for the ride.
Swiss riders are bringing their own portable stables, but most others are using electric paddocks or tethering their horses overnight.
En route, riders from France and Belgium are joining sections of the ride, which begins with a parade in Cambrai.
Horses are expected to cover 15 to 25kms a day, mostly across country but going through some towns and villages where they will compete in various military tests.
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On the final weekend the Canadians will lead all the riders into Mons on the Saturday commemorating the 100-year centenary since they liberated the city. Mounted police will escort them from the local forces.
That night the city of Mons is hosting a gala dinner for riders and the 75 ground crew. On Sunday locals can watch a free mounted skills at arms competition in the town’s hippodrome.
All riders taking part are footing the £1,500 entry costs. Any residual funds left over after the costs have been covered will be donated to Brooke, the charity for working horses and donkeys.
Some individual riders have created JustGiving pages for the Brooke and the ICA is looking for sponsorship “to support us in making The Pursuit to Mons a success for all.”
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