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Forces Wives Challenge team countdown to their Ride to Freedom

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With operations shortly to commence, Steph Quintrell takes time out from preparation plans to update us before the team sets off for France

With less than two weeks to go until the Ride to Freedom (R2F) team travel to France to begin their adventure of a lifetime, it’s all go go go to get prepared in time! The team have been so grateful to receive equestrian kit and outdoor equipment gifted by a number of companies, who have been so supportive of the R2F team and Forces Wives Challenge as a whole. With riding clothes and accessories, footwear, helmets, solar power kit, first aid kits and insect repellents, the team are super excited to get going now.

Other than ensuring we have the appropriate kit, we need to complete the challenge, so we’ve had to ensure we’re as physically prepared as possible for the long hours in the saddle, most likely in hot weather and over demanding terrain. The team have been using a combination of different exercises to help increase stamina and, of course, we’ve been getting as many hours in the saddle as possible. We have increased our step count (and pushes of wheelchair wheels in my situation!), ran, cycled, done Pilates’ sessions, HIIT sessions, swam, worked out in the gym and used every available chance to get some physical activity in. In my case, I used my son’s sixth birthday party at a big soft play centre as an excuse to get some physical activity in, I climbed, I did pull ups and generally just had a great time getting a sweat on. Together we have encouraged each other and been each other’s biggest cheerleaders.

Not only do we have to be strong physically, but we need to be mentally prepared for the challenge ahead as well. We have been using a number of tools to explore our own strengths and skills, and using team exercises to get to know each other’s strengths too. With a team full of strong, capable women, we certainly have everything covered between us, but the key is knowing how to effectively work together to ensure we use all those skills effectively. As Heather, our founder, knows only too well from the last two major expeditions FWC has taken on, when any team is faced with a difficult or challenging situation, that team needs everyone’s strengths to pull together and get through. Of course, spending all this time learning about each other while we prepare for the expedition has provided us all with another opportunity – to create friendships for life and friendships that I am confident will stand the test of time.

Back in May, the R2F team were delighted to be invited to Tedworth Park polo, for a taster session, to watch a para polo training session and join the riders for lunch. The team had the most wonderful day, had the opportunity to ride absolutely beautiful polo horses and thoroughly enjoyed meeting the riders who are benefiting from support of The Armed Forces Equine Charity (AFEC), which is the charity the team are fundraising for through Ride to Freedom. AFEC are an outstanding charity, whose aim and goal is to support the efficiency of the Armed Forces and the welfare of the wider Armed Forces Community. They do this through offering affordable and accessible equine recreation and sporting opportunities that contribute to mental and physical health and wellbeing of the armed forces community, delivering equine assisted learning activities from Tedworth Equestrian Centre, providing equine assisted recovery and rehabilitation. The charity also provides appropriate governance and business performance support to military equestrian centres (saddle clubs) to help ensure financial viability and legislative compliance, so they can continue to serve the wider military community. Through the R2F team raising money for AFEC, a relationship has been built between FWC and AFEC, and is one we hope will continue for many years into the future. The charity does such wonderful things for the armed forces community, and we are so proud to be able to raise money for such a worthwhile cause. If you’d like to support the team by making a small donation you can donate here.


I asked some of the R2F team how they were feeling now we are so close to the expedition starting, and these are some of their responses:

Ginnie said: “I feel secure in the knowledge that the R2F Team is a truly diverse group of strong women, ready to take on Ponies in the Pyrenees with both hands firmly on the reins.”

Hannah explained: “How I’m feeling? Incredibly excited for the challenge but very concerned I have left my shopping until the last minute!”

Vanessa told me: “Wow I can’t believe we are leaving in less than two weeks. All the preparation we’ve put in and amazing friends we’ve made has been the most positive experience I could have wished for. To say I think it’s changed my life would be an understatement. Looking forward to doing the expedition now, and whatever that will bring, we are ready.”

Ronnie joyfully said: “Seems like we’ve been preparing for ages to get to the Pyrenees, now I’ve definitely got ground rush – exciting!!”

Heather described how she is feeling: “It’s less than two weeks to go before we head off on our exciting adventure and I definitely have mixed emotions. A total of 18 months of planning and it’s now so close for us to head off. I’m super excited to get started – to meet the beautiful ponies that will take us on this unforgettable journey, to experience the stillness and calm that the mountains bring and to spend quality time with a fabulous team of FWC ladies. I simply can’t wait!”

Kate explained: “I’m experiencing ground rush with the challenge suddenly less than a couple of weeks away. We’ve been preparing for this for months so I’m definitely excited about what’s to come, but I’m also feeling quite nervous. I don’t really know what to expect!”

To finish, I must say a big thank you to our huge team of sponsors and partners, without whom this expedition could not have taken place.

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