1332 miles

In your own words Kate, why are you doing this Trek, and why now?

30 years ago, as a veterinary student, I decided to ride my pony Sam 200 miles from Halifax to Hadrians Wall to raise money for charity. The ride was challenging and it rained solidly for 5 of the 9 days but I returned with the dream to ride from John o' Groats to Lands End one day.
This dream has stayed with me, but there has never seemed a good time. After qualifying as a vet I went into full-time work, did further qualifications to specialise, and then became a partner in my own large practice.
The last few years of pandemic has shown me how important it is to not put things off - we never know what is around the corner.
Veterinary work can be stressful, as is running your own business and with a 1:2 on call rota, I finally decided I needed time out.
I have long been aware that it is the contact with animals - whether it is my horses, cats, dog, even the chickens - that gives me peace and amusement in my hectic life. And I want to help others do the same.
Pets As Therapy is a national charity that strives to ensure that everyone, no matter their circumstances, has access to the companionship of an animal to improve their own health and well-being.
Vetlife is another charity that is close to my heart. They provide a helpline, along with financial and health support to the veterinary profession which has one of the highest suicide rates of the professions. Indeed, they gave myself and my staff amazing support through a difficult time at the practice a few years ago and I would like to raise funds for them so they can continue to help others.
So what could be more appropriate than getting away with my horse, setting myself an immense challenge while raising funds for these great causes.

What do you believe are going to be the 3 most demanding challenges of this Trek and why do you say that?

The weather, camping, keeping my horse well and in good condition

What are your 3 greatest hopes and 3 greatest fears, as you approach this endeavour?

My hopes are to experience some stunning countryside, meet some lovely people and to gain a greater bond with my horse. Fears- my biggest one is that horse is harmed in some way and that I put her in danger, that I end up lost or stuck in a bog in horrendous weather, and that I find it hard to adjust once I get home!!

How much, and what sort of preparation are you doing for both yourself and for Marilyn?

For Marilyn - I have been taking her to lots of different places so that she does not find it stressful staying in a different place every night. I have been making sure she is not completely routine-bound. She has had physio/osteo, farrier, dentist, saddle fitter and dentist appointments. And we are increasing her exercise, both strengthening with schooling and lunging as well as riding longer distances. We will then be introducing more hill work as time goes on and hope to visit a water treadmill frequently. For myself, I am having dentist, optician and podiatry appointments! I have lost 2 stone in weight so far on a healthy eating kick so that Marilyn has less to carry. And we have bought a treadmill so that I can increase the amount of time I am walking despite it being dark outside!

You will be the first vet to undertake such a solo ride. What insights and what advantages, if any, do you feel you will have as a result?

As a vet I will be well placed to monitor Marilyn's health and well-being, as well as being able to do some acupuncture and massage etc to keep her comfortable. I should be able to deal with minor wounds etc.
However as a vet it also means that I tend to over think and over worry about the most minor issue! I have been offered huge support from the VetPartners community of equine practices though - who will provide veterinary help wherever I need it on my trip.

You will no doubt be taking a lot of kit and feed for both you and Marilyn. Can you please identify a few of key items and why they are so important?

A sharp strong knife - in case I need to cut her tack off in an emergency. Wire cutters - these can be used to help get a shoe off also, but also to cut if she gets stuck in wire. A buff (neck warmer) - can be used as a hair tie, neck warmer, hat, balaclava, mask, and also a bandage. A waterproof poncho - obviously can be used to keep me dry, but also as a tarp to wrap my stuff in overnight/ a picnic blanket/ an emergency shelter. My kindle - so that I can read some of the books I have wanted to read for ages, while my horse has a graze during the long journey!

Please can you briefly explain what support will be provided during the Trek, or are you just relying on the kindness of strangers?

My husband is staying around for the first few days in case I need to adapt equipment and to make sure I am ok. After that, it is the kindness of both friends and strangers! I will be posting some supplies out to key places so that I can replenish things and send some things home.

Given you will be undertaking approx 25 miles/day, please can you outline the approach you are taking to the feeding of Marilyn as well as your own diet, in order to provide the essential nutrients and stamina necessary for such a long journey?

I am more concerned about Marilyn really as I won't be able to rely on finding good grazing every night. I will stop during the day wherever there is good grass to let her eat for half an hour or so at a time. And she will be moved on to a highly concentrated energy feed before we set off. For myself, I have dehydrated food sachets, but if passing a shop/ pub I will make sure I stock up on some fresh foods where I can!

Last but not least, when you end your quest, what plans do you have e.g. a book to record your experiences, talks, new business possibilities etc?

I would love to write a book - as a little girl I loved writing, but again this is something that has gone by the wayside over the years. But in the meantime, I just want to enjoy the experience- there will be plenty of time to think about after when I return!

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