Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Great Britain: Success for coast-to-coast horse rider

By Mark Dowie

Published: 20/05/2008

Angus endurance horse rider John Thomson has successfully completed his 200-mile, east-to-west journey – raising about £2,000 for Ninewells Hospital’s acute stroke unit in Dundee.

Mr Thomson and his mount, pure-bred Arabian Prince Omar, arrived at Ardnamurchan lighthouse, the UK mainland’s most westerly point, at midday on Friday.

Mr Thomson, 57, of Parklea, Park Road, Brechin, left from Scurdie Ness lighthouse, near Montrose, on Thursday, May 8. He plotted a route which had never before been attempted on horseback.

He decided to embark on the journey after suffering a stroke two years ago. He took up horse-riding as part of his rehabilitation at the Dundee unit.

He became so enthusiastic about the sport that he trained in endurance riding. He is now a member of the Scottish Endurance Riding Club.

Mr Thomson’s intention to complete the journey by Thursday last week foundered when Omar cast a shoe while crossing Rannoch Moor.

“It was thanks to Neil Chalmers, the Blairgowrie-based farrier, that we managed to get Omar re-shod,” he said.

“Neil raced up the A9 to meet us in the early morning at the Killiecrankie Visitor Centre car park, after we had backtracked the 45 miles from the middle of Rannoch Moor where we had managed to remove the damaged shoe.”

Mr Thomson’s route, which passed through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery, took him via Killin, Tyndrum and back across the moor to the West Highland Way.

One other incident caused a delay, when Omar slipped while crossing a wooden bridge on the West Highland Way. The animal’s injury required attention from a vet at Fort William before he could continue.

After spending the night at Kinlochleven, Mr Thomson crossed on to the Ardnamurchan peninsula on Thursday and made his way to the lighthouse via single-track roads.

Although Mr Thomson trained and planned over 12 months for the trip, the journey proved to be physically demanding for horse and rider over sometimes challenging terrain.

After spending up to eight hours a day in the saddle, Mr Thomson said it is a challenge he does not intend to undertake again soon.

“It was an experience and the weather and scenery were fantastic, but I won’t be repeating it, although I have thought about taking Omar to California next year to compete in the Tevis Cup, which is 100 miles in 24 hours.”

Although the exact amount raised for Ninewells has yet to be finalised, Mr Thomson expected the total to be about £2,000.

The Press and Journal

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