Riding with Kings in Rajasthan - in a Challenge Rider's Own Words
Challenge Rider Rachel Morris was one of seven who successfully traversed rural Rajasthan in October 2014 to raise a staggering total of £6,000 for BHS Welfare. Read her report to find out just what makes this challenge so breathtaking…
2014 was the year of the horse, and I was adamant this was going to be the year to achieve my dream of combining equine charity work and travel. When I saw an advert in the Horse and Rider magazine back in February promoting The British Horse Society’s Challenge Rides, a lightbulb flicked on and I never looked back!
I’d always been fascinated with India; the colours, the hustle and bustle of everyone going about their business and their share of love for animals. I knew it was never a destination I would travel to on holiday with my family or friends so this was my only chance. After a little research I sent an email to Wendy Minor literally the day after and my journey started there...
I’d never been abroad before – I had only been on a twenty-minute flight to Jersey from my hometown in Gloucester, but if I was applying for a challenge then that was exactly what I wanted to make it.
My minimum fundraising amount was £3,600, and with having my own horse and being in a permanent battle over paying bills, vets fees and funding everything else the average horse enthusiast in their mid-twenties has to fight, I knew funds were tight.
I had no way of reaching this target unless I did exactly that – fundraise every single penny. I didn’t know which the more difficult challenge was: riding 150kms across the arid Thar Desert or raising any amount I could from everyone I could think of!
After signing up in February, I had about seven months to achieve my target before the funds had to be gathered eight weeks before we departed in October. The task seemed daunting but with the help and guidance of the charity and other people who have done similar events, I managed to exceed this in various ways.
One of the incredible Marwari horses used on our India Challenge Rides
I held everything from tombolas in pet stores to planning sponsored walks. I even made the heartbreaking decision to sell my previous beloved horse’s tack and personal items to get every penny I could. I had lost him a few months before – but this was all for an amazing cause and it was a fitting tribute to him. It made me so determined and I found myself giving PowerPoint presentations to local businesses every weekend and writing to magazines, newspapers and radio stations to get my story across.
It was incredibly tough but before I knew it, we were at the airport ready to start our venture!
Four weeks after my return, I was still on cloud nine. My trip was everything and more than I expected it to be. Originally complete strangers, I keep in contact with my team members and although only together for eleven days, we all became firm friends by the end.
During our travels we were treated like royalty, but at the end of the day this wasn’t a riding holiday and we did have our fair share of complications – despite a few bouts of illness, heat exhaustion and a few falls, this incredible country couldn’t dampen our spirits and the honour of riding these magnificent horses kept us smiling.
I rode a stunning black mare named ‘Muskan’, which means “bright smile” and that couldn’t have been more accurate; she was a gem. The Marwari horses are bulletproof – they are the equine sports car and make you feel invincible in the saddle.
Friendly faces met along the way
Wherever we went, children and families came running up to the track to greet us on our beautiful steeds and would always ask us who we were and where we came from, they wanted to know everything about us. With our elaborate travelling camp following us each day, we raced across the sandy tracks of the desert with the odd pause to admire the wildlife. It wasn’t uncommon to be flying along when our host and ride guide, Devendra, would thrust an arm out to the side towards a fleeing herd of antelope, or a majestic soaring Indian Roller bird, curious as to what we were.
I took hundreds of photos and videos to treasure every aspect I could of this ride, but none of them do it justice. They can’t capture the atmosphere or the true colours of the area. I bought several souvenirs from a few shops and salesmen which take me back just for a moment.
I ride every day but I’ll never forget the pride in having ridden a Marwari, scrabbling up and down the sides of sand dunes and clattering though the villages.
I know I’ll visit again soon, but the first adventure is always the most special. I won’t lie – I cried like a baby when I boarded the coach to come home; we had the most fantastic time and I wanted to take my horse with me!
We can’t forget the main reason for this experience, though – The British Horse Society is a charity after all and they rely on all funds available to monitor the welfare and wellbeing of our treasured horses.
Without fundraising they cannot survive and I would encourage absolutely anyone with a keen sense of adventure and a cultural interest to just have a go at one of their challenge rides – it’s a massive confidence boost to have known I’ve achieved this alone and now have full faith in my independence.
I can’t think of a better way to take part in charity work – what do you have to lose?
Sign up now for our next Indian Challenge Ride so that you, too, can Ride with Kings in Rajasthan!
India Challenge Rider, 2013
Thank you so much for making our trip so wonderful and for looking after us so well. You have given us so many happy memories. What a great team we were! Thank you.