Do you fancy embarking on a challenging adventure that involves travelling the length of the UK with a horse?
If you do, then take a leaf out of Grant Nicolle’s book.
This is exactly what the 42-year-old project manager did eight years ago when he travelled from John O’Groats to Land’s End.
And now he has published his diary so that others can read about his amazing experience and follow in his footsteps by undertaking a similar adventure of their own.
Ever since he was young, Grant has had a passion for horses and he is now an experienced equestrian, having previously served as a Captain in the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
The expedition combined his military training in the army with his love for travel.
If anyone is thinking of doing something like this I would tell them to just go for itGrant Nicolle
It also became a fundraiser as people suggested he raise money for charity while doing it. As a result he collected £10,000 which was split between the International League for the Protection of Horses and Cancer Research.
But the real challenge was undertaking the trip solo with only a horse for company.
Grant, who lives in Blebo Craigs, Cupar, said: “I thought it would be a good adventure as well as being able to visit parts of the UK you don’t normally get to see.
“I bought a few equestrian trail books to get a flavour of what had already been done, but no-one had done anything quite like this in the UK before.
“I told a few people what I was planning to do so I couldn’t back down!
“I then needed to buy a horse so I looked at the Scottish & Northern Equestrian, which is like an Autotrader for horses in Scotland. I found only one horse that was suitable and that was Marv.”
Grant bought Marv in the January of 2007 and did training rides with him every weekend until he embarked on the trip in April.
He planned the route and extended it so he could meet up with friends and family along the way.
“I wanted to stay in villages which had a pub in them as my theory was I could ask the locals to help me find a field for Marv and I could also be sure to get a meal,” he said.
“Luckily I found that if I called a pub before I was due to arrive in the village and explained what I was doing, within a few days they would have a field organised.
“I thought I would be mostly sleeping outside with Marv but for the 80 odd nights I was away, only 20 of them were spent in a field with him or in an adjacent barn.”
Grant experienced a number of high points during the expedition including visiting Larkhill – the home of the Royal Artillery – where he learned to ride in 1998.
He said: “To go back there with a horse was really evocative, it was like completing the circle.”
Developing a special relationship with Marv also made the trip memorable.
“I hadn’t spent this amount of time with a horse before and didn’t know how it was going to pan out,” he said.
“But by spending all that time together we really bonded.”
When Grant finally reached Land’s End, 1100 miles and 11 and a half weeks after the journey began, he was pleased to complete the trip.
He said: “We didn’t see many people on the way down as we were away from the main roads, but those we did see were very interested in what we were doing. This made it enjoyable and spurred me on.
“I was really sad when we finished though and have to say it left me with the feeling that I could do this again.”
And why did he decide to write about his experience?
“People kept saying to me that I should write about the trip,” he explained.
“When I was doing it I kept a diary that I would fill in each night, so it was just a case of turning it into proper text.
“All in all it took me around a couple of years to publish the book but it was worth doing.
“I kept Marv for two years afterwards because we got on so well. But the plan was never to hold onto him long term as I wasn’t able to give him enough of my time.
“But I was able to sell him to friends of the family who stay up north so I have been able to see him and ride him again since then.”
Grant added: “If anyone is thinking of doing something like this I would tell them to just go for it.
“The main thing you need is a strong horse with strong legs as you have to be aware of the mileage you will need to cover.
“But I would definitely recommend the trip – I have no regrets.”
Long Trot is available to order on Amazon. A version for Kindle is also available.
A day that almost ended in disaster ...
There were many memorable moments during Grant’s Long Trot adventure, but there was one incident which proved to be the lowest point of the whole experience.
In fact, it may have ended the adventure before it had properly started.
On day four, Grant and Marv were heading for Ben Armine Lodge in the Scottish Highlands when disaster struck – Marv got caught in a Peat Bog.
Grant said: “He was sunk up to his chest and became instantly distressed. We were miles from anywhere and there was no mobile signal. I was in tears as I frantically tried to dig around his front legs with my hands to help him clear his feet.”
He continued: “Once I had dug out his front feet sufficiently and he had got his breathing back, he then managed to haul himself a metre closer to the track with me pulling on the lunge line.
“We repeated the process over and over for an hour until he finally pulled himself clear. I couldn’t believe he had done it. I had visions of him breaking his leg and knew if that happened it would all be over.”
However, there was a silver lining. Grant said: “Having got through this together, it made our bond even stronger.”