Friday, 31 July 2009

Monday, 27 July 2009


A thought to follow the previous post.

Once a man was walking along a beach. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Off in the distance he could see a young boy going back and forth between the surf's edge and the beach. Back and forth this boy went. As the man approached he could see that there were hundreds of starfish stranded on the sand as the result of the natural action of the tide. The man was stuck by the apparent futility of the task. There were far too many starfish. Many of them were sure to perish. As he approached, the boy continued the task of picking up starfish one by one and throwing them into the surf.As he came up to the boy he said, "You must be crazy. There are thousands of miles of beach covered with starfish. You can't possibly make a difference." The boy looked at the man. He then stooped down and pick up one more starfish and threw it back into the ocean. He turned back to the man and said, "It made a difference to that one!"

Sent to us by our friends the Schulzes when they heard the story of Bashir.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

A Salutary Tale

Now my broken bones are mended and I am disappearing back to China, here is a salutary tale to remind you all of one of the main aims of the Long Horse Ride.

In their first promotional DVD, the ‘face’ of my husband Iestyn’s charity Schoolchildren for Children (ScfC )was Bashir, a little 6 year old Kenyan boy living in Korogocho, a Nairobi slum which is one of the worst in Africa. His single mother was dying of AIDS, but Bashir received free school meals, warm uniform and free medical care thanks to funding provided to his school St Prisca by ScfC. For a video clip of Bashir see .
The food shown on the video was scavenged from the rubbish dump.

In the couple of years following the making of the DVD Bashir’s mother died and he moved on to a higher primary school, a year earlier than expected as he had been making such good educational progress. A couple of months ago Iestyn flew out to Kenya to visit the ScfC projects and to check on the making of a new DVD. He had decided to follow up Bashir’s progress in the new DVD, but it was not until Bashir was tracked down at Iestyn’s insistence that it was realised how drastically the child’s life had changed since leaving the ScfC supported school . When he was found, this little 9 year old boy had not eaten for three days. He had only a thin shirt and shorts and a pair of flip flops to his name to keep him warm through the Kenyan winter. He had a badly infected burnt foot from accidently stepping on the fire – he could not afford the necessary medical treatment. This bright and previously achieving little boy was in the process of dropping out of school. Apart from anything else, it was not very motivating to attend when his classmates ate school lunch in front of him and he went hungry as he could not afford the £1.50 a month to pay for it. And as Bashir said himself “At home things are not really OK.”

It was a stark reminder of what happens when support is not available or maintained for children such as Bashir.

You may be glad to know that ScfC has taken steps to ensure that Bashir and his young siblings are taken care of for the foreseeable future, but it must be remembered that he is only one of very many thousands of children in similar predicaments.
This is why I am urging you to support the charitable aims of the ride by donating to Schoolchildren for Children via my Justgiving page at . Remember – ALL money donated goes directly to the projects, as administration costs etc are covered by separate sponsorship. If you only donate £5 it really will be of specific benefit - for example, feeding a schoolchild such as Bashir for over three months!

And a massive thank you to all those who have already given generously – the story above demonstrates the potentially hopeless situations your donations help to prevent.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Do You Speak Spanish?

If you do, you can listen to my interview with Spanish radio programme Travesias at I hasten to add I do NOT speak Spanish and there is a rather sexy Spanish voiceover.

Busy with last minute arrangements. My wonderful horse vet Lisa Durham rummaged through her cupboards and sorted me out with all sorts of essential potions at cost price. As an ex sheep farmer I am already a fairly dab hand at vaccinating, but she has also promised to train me up in some useful skills such as tubing (sticking tubes down horses' throats in cases of colic) when things are quieter in the winter. China is pretty well served with vets, but they are likely to be fewer and further between as we travel west.

The rest of this week has been spent tramping around up to my ankles in the mud at the Royal Welsh Show explaining to friends and acquaintances why I am still in Wales. My sponsor Just Chaps had set up shop by the horse ring, so I was able to introduce myself to Sally and tell her how delighted I am with our half chaps - they are really excellent quality and very comfortable, as well as smart!
Perk of yesterday was when our Welsh pony stallion Cwrtycadno Cymro came 2nd in the Royal Welsh Show Welsh pony sire ratings - only four of his progeny were being shown but they all did well in spite of some naughty behaviour in one case.

Thursday, 16 July 2009


To get in the mood again, here is a photo of Peng Wenchao and me masquerading as bandits somewhere near Tumu in April. In fact the cold dusty winds from the north account for our garb.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Another delay

Li Jing has just emailed me to say he will be flying back to Moscow this Thursday July 16th to see his family and sort out his visa, and will not be back until August 1st. Apparently the dental work he was undergoing in China took longer than expected and of course he has not seen his wife and child for about eighteen months, since he set off to ride from Votkinsk to Beijing.

As I do not want to waste time hanging around in Beijing when I have plenty to do at home and will be away for several months in any case, I have changed my flight from July 16th to July 30th. The expected restart date for the ride is now August 5th, and Wutzala plans to organise a press conference and party for the weekend before.

At least I will get the full recovery period of three months recommended by the doctors. And will be able to go the the Royal Welsh Show, which I have not missed for many years!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Will We Make It ?!!!

I have discovered to my amusement that the Long Horse Ride is featured on the news prediction website Hubdub at

What do you reckon?

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Red Rock Treks

While I am back in the UK, although all the horse stuff is locked in the trailer at Guyuan, most of my personal kit is being stored at Ed Jocelyn's flat in Beijing. Ed has been a tremendous support, not only due to the practical help and encouragement he has given me, but also allowing me to pick his brains for advice on travelling with four footed friends through China.
In 2002 -3, Ed and friend Andy McEwen made an epic journey on foot retracing the steps of the Long March, and followed it up by writing a fascinating and entertaining book of the trek - unsurprisingly called The Long March and well worth a read.
Since then, Ed and business partner Yang Xiao have retraced other routes taken by the Red Army, often using pack ponies or mules, and their experiences are documented in their website

Ed has now set up a new adventure trekking company Red Rock Trek and Expedition to share his unique knowledge of these and other historical routes through some of the more untouched and beautiful parts of China. Each trek offers a genuinely pioneering opportunity to experience parts of China well off the tourist trail. If you enjoy adventure holidays with a difference, then I would strongly recommend you consider these treks. As a historian, journalist and linguist who has lived in China for many years, Ed has a wealth of knowledge about China, and is a fluent Mandarin speaker. For more photos and details see

In 2010 the treks will also be available through the premier adventure holiday company Wild Frontiers

Dotty Old Woman Is Interviewed.

Last week I went up to Suffolk to do an interview about the Long Horse Ride for TrotOnTV - a new equestrian networking website. The Long Horse Ride will be featured on the website and if you want to see a dotty old woman being interviewed, look on Youtube at

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Safety First.

Following my accident, I have decided it will be advisable to use a body protector from now on, particularly in view of my advancing years. However I have been concerned about the practicality of riding for long hours in this piece of kit, as all those available on the market appeared to be very unrelenting to feminine curves - in other words they squash your boobs! That was before I came across Kanteq who have developed a revolutionary new body protector which is not only to the highest safety specification, but designed to comfortably fit the female form. I am therefore delighted that they have agreed to sponsor me with their marvellous product, to protect me if the worst happens again.

I have already declared that if it had not been for my wonderful Charles Owen Pro II helmet I am convinced my injuries would have been far more serious and even fatal, as I crashed down head first. Although there was no visible damage to my helmet (and arguably my head!) it is always recommended that a helmet is replaced after a heavy impact. Thus I am most appreciative that Charles Owen have been considerate of my welfare and generously offered to replace my helmet with a new one.
You will see below that I eventually managed to embed the map showing the route of the ride during April 2009 until I fell off. Make sure you change the setting to satellite and zoom in to get full advantage. Click on the blue points to see short descriptions.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A Mystery is Solved

Last weekend my old mare Wian Dawlish eventually produced a foal by our stallion Cymro. But she is so wild that I have not been able to get close enough to identify whether it is a colt or a filly - the photo above of mare and foal on the day of birth was from a long distance photo that I cropped and blew up! However yesterday friend Rob Jones (who owns the stallion) managed to get some close ups with his zoom lens, and the mystery is solved - it is a colt - and thus for sale to anyone who is interested. Look on my pony website for more recent photos as they come.
The next bit of good news is that I have had my first foray on horseback since my accident - courtesy of doctor friend Rowena who provided a personal medical escort when she kindly took me out for a suitably sedate hack on her horses Blodes and Llewelyn.