15,000km, 11 time zones and eight countries: rider to take on epic around the world trek

  • A man who learnt to ride only two years ago will take on an epic journey around the world journey on horses currently living wild in the woods of Siberia.

    Hertfordshire-based Nikita Gretsi, 21, will begin “The Last Great Journey” in Magadan, Russia, and will ride across Eurasia – covering 15,000km, 11 time zones and eight countries – to London. From there, he plans to ride a further 6,000km across north America, plus another part of Russia, to finish.

    Nikita, who is of Russian, Ukranian, Estonian and Uzbek heritage, told H&H he came up with the idea to ride across Eurasia in 2019 – having never ridden a horse before.

    “I wanted to challenge myself physically and mentally but as a whole the project is about unity and changing perspectives. I want to unlock the world and get to know different cultures,” he said.

    “I love travelling but with different modes of transport you tend to go from A to B and miss everything in between, by doing it on horseback you can see everything in its entirety.”

    Nikita left his job as a restaurant manager in 2019 to put all his efforts into planning the trip.

    “I contacted the Long Riders Guild and asked if they could help me organise it. When I first had the idea I did a lot of research but it was difficult to understand how to turn the idea into a reality so this has been down to the help of CuChullaine, one of the Long Riders Guild founders, and his late wife Basha O’Reilly – they were fundamental in organising it,” he said.

    “That summer I spent two months in Mongolia living and training with nomads and learnt to ride. I then went to Siberia where I again lived with nomads and did more training. Learning how to ride was a big challenge at first; we were riding 12 hours a day so it was like a crash course, but you definitely learn fast and my riding has really evolved and improved.”

    Nikita will start the journey in Russia and travel with two native Siberian horses; Dierenkey and Choroy, one to ride and the other a pack horse. He had been due to start the adventure in February but owing to Covid this has been delayed until around May or June. The trip across Eurasia is expected to take between 16 months and two years.

    “The horses are unique; they live in the wild in Siberia where temperatures can reach -60C in the winter and above 30C in the summer, so the horses can withstand nearly a 100C temperature range,” said Nikita.

    “I’ve been going over and training with the horses for the past year and a half. At the moment they’re wandering in the woods wild so we need to find them, catch them and they’ll be given a couple of weeks to adjust to being ridden again.”

    “There is no time pressure involved and the journey can take as long as it needs to so if the horses get tired we’ll rest and there will be vet checks along the way to make sure the horses are healthy. I view my horses as equal members of the team.”

    Nikita believes he will be the first to ride across Eurasia on horseback.

    “The last few years have been all about preparing and planning to make sure I can complete this successfully. There will be lots of difficulties and obstacles to overcome and you need to have a lot of support, not just locally in the country but in terms of government permissions. The modern world doesn’t really orientate for equestrian explorers compared to 100 years ago,” he said.

    “The first 3,500-4,000km is across very wild terrain where I’ll live with locals and that’s the part that excites me the most, bonding with people from different cultures and having the time to learn from them.”

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    Nikita said he has received a lot of support from across the world.

    “At first many people thought it was a crazy idea, especially when I couldn’t ride but as time has passed everyone has believed in me and the project,” he said.

    “The journey has a very strong message about unity that people support. There is so much of the world we don’t know a huge amount about so I want to make this information accessible and share my discoveries with people.”

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