The idea of riding up
the West coast didn’t immediately appeal but the Silk route did. If I was ever
to do something like this then now was the time. However, the idea still didn’t
fit. How was I going to travel? But then it hit me - horseback. It would also be
sufficiently difficult to warrant raising money for my other passion which was
education. However it wasn’t until I was in NE India that I began researching
education. I travelled widely across the state and found that many of the
problems that I’d encountered in Nepal were prevalent in Assam. For example most
children drop out from school before Grade 5 to work in Assam’s tea gardens.
Through a combination of intuitive thinking and sheer determination the Assam
Gov’t, (along with ActionAid), has substantially reduced the dropout rate and
children now enjoy a brighter future than one of stagnation in their current
social group (i.e. labourers, farriers etc…). ActionAid was one of the few
charities working in the NE and actively helping the Government to make a
Armed with my determination I then spent the next 4 weeks
in Darjeeling, West Bengal. I spent time learning Hindi and riding out along the
tea lined ridge tops of the Himalayan foothills. I began work on my website and
continued researching education across India. After a brief trip to Bangladesh
in June to extend my Indian visa, I travelled over to New Delhi where I spent
the next 4 months organising this ride.
The next four months were extremely busy and at times it
felt like I never left the computer. I contacted many organistions incl. the
LRG, Indiginous Horse Society of India, who all provided advice and the expert
backing I needed to get R4E started.
I spent several weeks at Delhi race course watching and
learning how to groom and look after horses. Race horses are notoriously
difficult and extremely powerful. They took pleasure in troubling the poor
grooms, and at times me, by kicking, bucking and biting to show their
frustration at being shut away during Delhi’s Summer months. The racing season
starts in September/October as Summer temperatures in Delhi begin to recede from
45 degree highs.
I bought Rosie from dubious one Mr. Tashneem Singh of
Sirsa in Haryana. Initially I rang all of the vets in the Yellow pages until I
found Dr. Arun Kumar Sharma. He initially thought I was buying a house and gave
the all sorts of funny answers to my initial questions. How much land do you
want? How much are you expecting to pay? Finally he realised I was buying a
horse not a house and several visits up to Haryana later and we found Rosie.
Through another friend I was put in contact with Mr. Vikram Sodie, a well
respected polo player and personality of Delhi, who agreed to keep Rosie on his
farm on the outskirts of the city.
As September rolled around, the final pieces of my ride
seemed to slot into place. Via some earlier newspaper articles, the Brooke
Hospital for Animals had come to hear about my ride. Our goals were similar and
they proposed a working relationship. Later I was approached by another major
partner in R4E. Twenty Fifth Frame Productions had extensive experience in
making documentaries and so my ride finally took shape. On the 27th September
with much help from ActionAid India, we formally announced R4E to the Indian
Public. Both Brooke and 25th Frame Productions attended and the day was a
October was a pleasant time of year in New Delhi. The
climate had finally begun to cool and shawls and jumpers were appearing on the
streets again. I wrapped up my horse-riding lessons Captain Kundan Singh?€?s
Delhi Riding Club and finished buying the last pieces of equipment for the
coming ride. Rosie took well to the new saddle from Kanpur and the only trouble
we had was in fitting the saddle bags to it. They had to be specially arranged
to accommodate a video camera on the horse but we eventually managed.
To be honest, if it hadn’t been for all the help of the
LRG and various other horse lovers, life would have been much more difficult.
There is a bewildering array of saddles, bags, materials, riding gear etc… to
choose from and to the non-experienced rider it can be really confusing.
Transworld Trading (New Delhi/Kanpur) sponsored my bags for me, the Brooke
provided me with a med-kit for Rosie and notably Friendicoes SECA gave no end of
continued on hand help in preparing Rosie to leave Delhi, from replacing horse
shoes to helping us film around Delhi to fixing the bags to the
The LRG contains the biggest repository of long distance
ride info in the world. Not since Peter Fleming rode from Peking to Srinagar in
1935 has anybody attempted this ride. This is the first time in the world anyone
has ridden from Delhi to Beijing on horseback via Pakistan. Which has only
increased my efforts to be the first person in the world to take a horse from
India to Pakistan.
If anybody was looking for me during my time in New Delhi
I was probably in one of three places; the Pakistan High Commission, the DGFT
(Directorate General of Foreign Trade) or the Animal Husbandry Commission. I had
applied to the Pakistan Government in mid-August for permission to take Rosie
into Pakistan. I heard nothing back from them despite numerous phone calls and
visits to the High Commission. At the end of September I obtained the quarantine
regulations listing the diseases that Rosie had to be free of to enter Pakistan.
I admitted Rosie to the Animal Quarantine Centre at Delhi Airport and she was
cleared of all major diseases. However…
Despite all the efforts of the Pakistan High Commissioner,
Mr. Aziz Ahmed Khan, and many several other well-respected individuals in
Pakistan, we were unable to finally obtain the permission needed. I learnt that
permission would be granted but “it would take time.” Even though Rosie was
clear of all major diseases as clarified by the Government of Pakistan, another
obstacle fell in the way. Because Rosie was a native breed of India (i.e. a
Kathiawari mare), they wouldn’t allow her out of the country anyway - and
especially not into Pakistan! I tried in vain by appealing to the DGFT and
eventually the Animal Husbandry Commissioner himself, but despite lots of
sympathetic nods and assurances the final answer was… “no.”
By November the table was set and it was time to leave. On
the 05th November 2004 I was sat on Rosie outside of the, Red Fort, New Delhi.
The Red Fort was one of the main masterpieces left over by the Mogul empire in
1665 (check date) and trade between Delhi and Lahore flourished. Both India and
Pakistan share a common history, so in keeping with the spirit of friendliness
between the two countries, I set off from the old ‘Lahore Gate’ in India and I
will purposefully ride through ‘Delhi Gate’ when I enter Lahore in Pakistan. No
two countries with such a common heritage and nature should have the enmity as
these two do. In whatever small way, I hope my ride helps to promote
friendliness between these two nations.