The Forces Wives Challenge ‘Ride to Freedom’ will showcase the incredible power adventure can have on those living with physical disability, mental health conditions and chronic illness. We are raising money for the inspirational Armed Forces Equine Charity (AFEC) whose charitable aims align so closely with the FWC community. AFEC activities are designed to tackle a range of issues from loneliness to addiction, mental health problems to physical disability; they want to help everyone to build their confidence and realise their potential. A proportion of the money raised, by us for AFEC, will be granted to FWC.
In June, the team of eight FWC ladies will travel to France to tackle the challenging terrain surrounding the World War Two Freedom Trail (Le Chemin de la Liberté), across the Pyrenees Mountains on horseback. The team will follow remote mountain passes that were used as escape routes into Spain by around 33,000 allied service personnel and others fleeing to safety, avoiding checkpoints and surveillance. Check out our video to explain how this challenge came about.
This act of remembrance touches the hearts of the FWC community, but the expedition will be particularly significant for FWC team member, and challenge creator, Steph who became disabled three years ago and is now permanently dependent on a wheelchair.
Steph joined FWC determined not to let her disability prevent her from adventuring and to inspire others to never give up hope. She and the rest of the team will spend five days on horseback, covering around 130 kilometres and trekking up to 2,200 metres in elevation. Most importantly they will work together to support Steph to achieve what she believed to be impossible - freedom from her wheelchair, and ultimately, freedom from disability (please see below for key facts on the challenge).
Meet the team on our website.
Forces Wives Challenge (FWC) is a social enterprise created to unite women with partners in the Armed Forces through adventure and challenge. We seek to combat loneliness by providing opportunities to experience the same camaraderie, sense of belonging and achievement enjoyed by our partners in the military. FWC passionately believes in the power of physical exercise, teamwork and the great outdoors to help our community deal with the many challenges military life throws at us. We look to translate the skills that our community possesses, such as resilience, adaptability and strength, into a high performing female team that truly believes that...
"TOGETHER WE CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING"
FWC has seen rapid growth since its launch in 2019; it has nearly 1200 members worldwide representing each of the services - the British Army, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force. The community has raised over £63,000 for military-related and other charities and conducted 20 expeditions and challenges across the globe. These include:
- summiting the world’s highest volcano in Chile
- climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya
- retracing the Heroes of Telemark route in Norway
- climbing Ben Nevis
- tackling the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge
- completing the Burgh Island swim
- virtual events during COVID
R2F Key facts
- The team will spend five to seven hours in the saddle every day, covering 25 to 27 kilometres, for five days.
- The challenge requires technical riding due to the steep terrain and length of time in the saddle.
- They will walk, trot and canter and cover trails including woodland paths, open pastures, hardpack tracks, rugged and wild sections, river crossings and steep off-trail sections.
- On day three, they will face their most difficult challenge - riding a 1600-metre elevation into the mountains and sleeping under canvas at 2200 metres.
- The riders will need to dismount and lead the ponies in some areas due to obstacles or the tracks being too steep or loose underfoot for the ponies to carry their rider.
- Steph, who is the disabled member of the team, will stay on horseback except to navigate obstacles. The FWC ladies will be joined by the expedition guide to support and carry her when required, enabling her to overcome anything in her way.
- The team will be responsible for all aspects of horse care, including tacking up, grooming and leading by hand.
- They will be riding a native Pyrenees Mérens horse. Gentle, hardy and economical, their suppleness and surefootedness allow them to work well on the steep hillsides. Pack ponies will be used to carry equipment including Steph’s wheelchair.
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