Driving solo from west Wales to Mongolia raising funds for charity - with a stop-off to meet a para-equestrian at RockleyThirty year-old Guy Simmonds' first stop on his epic solo 2019 journey - by any standards the journey of a lifetime - was Rockley. He came to see para-equestrian dressage rider Alison Fryer.
Guy, who lives in west Wales, is a professional falconer and a very keen amateur rider. He has planned his journey through seventeen countries is to find out more about falconry and horsemanship - and raise money for three charities.
He was one of the eight riders selected for the Horse and Country television channel's Omega Equine All Star Academy. He was one point off winning the reality contest. You can see his audition video here.
He came across Alison Fryer, who lives in a village near Marlborough, through social media. He wanted to find out more about the challenges that face para-equestrians and how they train: "I was really interested in her story and understanding all about it. We underestimate or take for granted how hard it must be for them. I don't want just to meet famous riders - we known their stories. It'll be lovely to follow her story."
At Rockley he spent the day filming a joint vlog and watching Alison working - on horseback and using a mechanical saddle which helps strengthen her balance and posture. She explained to Guy how her horses have to learn to filter out her unwanted movements.
He also saw how Alison spends important time bonding with her horses - including the benefits of equine backrub techniques.
Alison's year starts with an important dressage competition - next month's Para Winter Championships at Myerscough College near Preston.
Guy Simmonds year starts in earnest on January 15 when he takes his specially equipped Land Rover Defender - complete with winch - across the channel from Newhaven to Dieppe.
After some days in France he will travel on to Spain and Portugal. Then back north to Switzerland, before he heads further east towards Mongolia - not as the crow flies, but avoiding the most dangerous areas. One of his aims is to make a film of his journey that will be available to everyone who donates to his chosen charities.
By January 15 his Defender will be covered with sponsors' logos - including MRE Mountain (ration packs), Tredstep Ireland (riding boots and more), Grizzly Fishing (specialist sunglasses), Omega Equine (feed supplements), Signwise, Charleys Gym and Latitude Overland (specialists in vehicle preparation).
Guy is fundraising for three charities: Bipolar UK, Hannah's Willbery Wonder Pony (funding bone cancer research and giiving Willberry's Wishes to the very seriously ill) and Project Lugger.
Found mainly in India, Lugger falcons are severely endangered. This is partly because their gene pool is too small. The Lugger Project is breeding these 'Red List' falcons in captivity to enlarge their gene pool and so help the species' survival.
One of the founders of the charity is Bob Dalton one of Britain's foremost falconers. He has provided Guy with a valuable list of contacts in several of the countries he will be visiting.
Somewhere along his route through Europe, Alison Fryer hopes to travel out to see him at a dressage or para-dressage event - and catch up with his equestrian and falconry exploits.
That will be well before his last stop - according to current plans - in Mongolia. There he hopes to fulfil his dream of flying golden eagles from horseback. But as he told marlborough.news, Mongolia is more than halfway round the world, so why bother coming back the same way when you could just carry on round.
Guy Simmonds has a just giving page for his three charities: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/guysimmondswingingit