Free Riding the Alps…in the Hoof steps of the legend – Hannibal
In 218BC Hannibal lead his army including 15000 horses and 37 elephants over the Alps from France into Italy crossing the high Alpine passes, some up to 10000ft. It is regarded as one of the most remarkable feats in history. For centuries historians have struggled to confirm exactly the route he took. There are six possible Col’s (Mountain passes) he may have crossed, in fact some historians say he probably did more than one of them, winding his way down through the alps on the border to Italy. Last year (2016) a team of scientists found Horse feces dating back to 200BC. high up in the mountains on one of the possible routes, gaining a step closer to proving the route Hannibal took.
In June this year I am taking some of my most skilled and experienced Connemara Liberty ponies (from the Island Project) along with Hewie my Highland pony (who has awesome skills for Mountain terrain) as a pack pony. I am going to ride at Liberty (in complete freedom) and take on the six possible passes that Hannibal may have taken. My project will take a month, starting in the north and the most northerly Col he’s thought to have crossed. Then winding our way down through the Alps testing out how and if you can really get a team of horses across the alps…let alone 15000 of them! I will be camping with my horses at night high in the mountains. Hewie will have a pack saddle on to carry camera’s, equipment and our food. I will be filming my adventure the whole way from the training at home, the highs, lows and everything in between!
No one has ever tried to go on a journey with a team of horses working at Liberty, let alone taking on Hannibal’s iconic epic route over steep mountain passes or deep mountain rivers. The final pass is over the Col du Traversette, scientist last year claim this is the mostly likely, how ever, I question this…can you really get horses over the 3000 meter pass? I am going to find out. If we make it over the Col we will head to the start of the river Po where our journey will end.
I know this will be tough, I know my training will have to be taken to a whole new level, the preparation will be key, the horses will need to be at the top of their game and undoubtedly their trust in me will need to be unwavering even in the extreme. Hannibal was not just an extraordinary leader of men but he was also a formidable horseman. Books talk about people’s relationship with their horses at that time and it is mentioned that Hannibal had a special horse, and how when he had to leave to set sail he killed his horse to prevent anyone else having him.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that horses deserve the unique place they hold in our hearts, after all, history is written on the back of a horse!