A rider and her five-year-old homebred mare are navigating the entire 1500km of the Welsh border this month to raise money for two charities.
Bethan Matthews, 24, who runs a livery yard near Brecon, and Charm have so far tackled bridges, beaches, highways and hills on what will form an epic 29-day trek.
“It’s been amazing so far — I don’t want to come back,” Bethan told H&H. “Yesterday [19 June] we did 15km straight along the beach and I am loving all of it, spending time with my horse doing more than we ever could at home.”
The trip took a year to plan and has involved days of up to 11 hours in the saddle.
“I haven’t planned for any rest days but some days we have just covered 20km, which has meant Charm can have 20 hours in the field to relax afterwards,” Bethan said.
“Our longest day was just over 60km and we always stop so Charm can have lunch time feed — I have a support vehicle which is a horse box and if the weather is bad then Charm can stand in there for some hay.”
She added that she had adapted her tack so Charm was bitless to enable her to stop for a snack en route.
“She can graze more easily bitless and I try and make sure she always has something in her stomach — the stopping to graze is a habit I’ll probably have to get her out of when I get back now!”
Charm is out of a Welsh/thoroughbred mare who Bethan still owns, by a traditional cob stallion. Remarkably, she has been backed less than a year and had only left the farm on two occasions before the trip.
“She wasn’t the horse I planned to do it on but at the beginning of this year we realised she was the most suitable as she’s so quiet,” Bethan explained.
“I had planned to stay at friends one night to make sure she was OK away from home but we ran out of time. All we did to prepare was put her in a field next door to her friends, rather than in with them, for the week before we left so it wasn’t too big a shock for her.
“So far, every time we have got to a new place to stay she has been chilled as long as there is food. I was worried if she was turned out in massive fields I might not be able to catch her, when she’s doing so much work each day, but she’s always come to me.”
She added that the mare had been unfazed by everything she had encountered, including a narrow 600m stretch of bridge.
“She’s only had a little spook twice, once when a steam train in Porthmadog tooted to say hello and another time when a rabbit ran between her legs,” she said.
After Bethan posted about her plans on Facebook last year, more than 100 people came forward with offers of accommodation for the pair and numerous others have stopped to chat with them on the road.
“Sometimes we’ve got to where we are staying an hour or two late because we’ve spent so much time talking to people,” she said.
The rider has already raised £2,000 for charities Blind Veterans UK and Swansea-based Communities for Horses, which works to improve education and welfare standards, but is hoping the donations will mount in the final days of her trip.
Make a donation below to:
“Blind veterans do a lot for my granddad, Bill Dutton, who is 94 and has glaucoma,” she said. “He lives 2 ½ hrs away from us and he doesn’t want to live anywhere else, so the charity have helped him to live independently.
“They take him to their centre at Llandudno, which we called in to see, and they have taken him to Normandy — he’s had a new lease of life through them.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.