An 80-Year-Old Woman, 1,000km, a Trusty Steed, and a Faithful Dog

80 year old rides horse 1000km
Dotchin riding Diamond; Dinky rides near the pommel. Photo: SWNS

For the 40th time, Jane Dotchin has set out on a seven-week pilgrimage along rural byways from her home in Hexham, England to Inverness, Scotland.

How many 80-year-olds do you know who travel 1,000km overland each year? Age is just a number for Jane Dotchin from Hexham, England, who has done such a trek annually since 1972. This year, her 13-year-old pack pony, her disabled Jack Russell terrier, and a few personal items were all she needed for the trip.

Dotchin puts on her eyepatch and an orange safety vest, packs her kit and Jack Russell terrier Dinky onto her horse, and sends it. From her home in Northumberland, near the Scottish border, she’ll ride all the way north to Inverness. It’s a tradition that started decades ago for Dotchin, with a deferred animal care request and an inkling of freedom.

“My mother would look after my other ponies, but she wasn’t that keen on looking after my Haflinger stallion,” she told Scotland’s STV News. “So I rode him down to Somerset to see a friend, which is about 300 miles [480km].”

Despite cultural changes and age challenges, the active octagenarian never lost her inspiration and remarkable trail psych.

 Jane Dotchin 1000km horseback

Along the way, Jane Dotchin sleeps in a tent and boils stream water. Photo: SWNS

Highland trail riding: Dotchin goes north, old-school

Dotchin’s pilgrimage, which started this year on August 31, will take around seven weeks. She and her pony, Diamond, do 25 to 30km days, mostly on single-track roads. She declines to use maps, sticking to routes she knows (presumably quite intimately) and visiting friends along the way.

“It is nice to go and see [people] again,” she said to STV News. “I ring them up in the morning to say I’m going to be there in the evening. I don’t warn them too far in advance, because if the weather suddenly changes or I decide to stop early then they can be left wondering where I’ve got to.”

Her process is simple: eat a simple diet of porridge, oatcakes, and cheese. Resupply along the way, never carrying too much at once — boil water from streams when it’s necessary. Sleep in a tent, tether the horse, dig a hole in the ground when nature calls.

It’s fascinating to think of an 80-year-old woman in England acting out the dreams of John Muir, but there she is. Her one compromise appears to be that she does carry a rudimentary cell phone — however, she only uses it in emergencies, and a single charge often lasts six weeks.

80 year old rides 1000km on horseback

The trip will take seven weeks. Photo: SWNS

Along the way, Dinky the Jack Russell frolics in grass patches despite her deformed front legs. She sleeps with Dotchin like a “hot water bottle” while Diamond rests and grazes on a long tether nearby.

A public service announcement from Jane Dotchin: don’t litter!

Over the years, Jane Dotchin has made one alarming observation: trash is now everywhere. Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, just outside Glasgow, especially sets off her litter radar.

“It’s appalling, in particular single used barbecues which are left lying all over the place,” she told STV News. “Cumbernauld is the fly-tipping capital of Britain. There are some lovely people there who let me camp, but some of it is so disgusting and shameful.”

Regardless, she carries on. She also notes that camper vans are more and more prevalent on the UK’s narrow single-track roads. She’s happy to share but notes that some van drivers don’t seem to realize just how much space they take up.

“I was forever just about getting swept off the roads by them,” she said.

Still, her love for the countryside and a worthy adventure endures. And in 2020, The British Horse Society recognized it, giving her its Exceptional Achievement award.

Jane Dotchin, her Jack Russell and horse

Jane Dotchin has made the journey every year since 1972. Photo: SWNS

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About the Author

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.

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Tara
Tara
2 months ago

Thank you for sharing this inspiring, touching story. May she be healthy and ride many thousands of miles more with her furry friends!

+25
Benny
Benny
2 months ago
Reply to  Tara

Amen tara

+6
Aritha R Williams
2 months ago
Reply to  Benny

She is awesome her faith is awesome as well to make that journey every year God has watched over her I would love to talk to her to receive some of her wisdom.

+8
Lyric
Lyric
2 months ago
Reply to  Tara

She is such an inspiration. I would love to talk with her also to gain some wisdom from her. I can definitely relate to her regarding her love of her horse and faithful dog. I would love to have an adventure to look forward to with my horse and one of my dogs. I also have a dog with deformed front legs and I’m no spring chicken. Maybe one day. I have 18 years before I’m 80.

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Sumtan
Sumtan
2 months ago

Absolutely lovely, a real inspiration when we are bombarded by so much that is vulgar and greedy in modern life.

+7
Barbara Ernst
Barbara Ernst
2 months ago

Many happy travels to Jane, Dinky, the beautiful horse and Sam the writer. The world needs you!! Latcho Drom, and blessings.

+4
Susun
Susun
2 months ago

Hurrahs❤️ for this elderly woman, doing as she wishes!🌞

+1
Melissa
Melissa
2 months ago

Wow, what an inspiration! I hope she continues in her Journey’s and remain healthy and whole to have many more adventures!

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Nancy
Nancy
2 months ago

Lovely story. It made my day! May she live to be 100 years.

+2
Dee
Dee
2 months ago

I saw her the other day in south Lanarkshire Scotland

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Reenie Ager
Reenie Ager
2 months ago

Wonderful and inspirational. Age is just a number. Hope youngsters will be encouraged to do similar instead of relying on electronic gadgetry for all entertainment. The simple pleasures and appreciating nature and companionship of all kinds still have their place. So sad to hear how bad litter and fly tipping has become. Loss of social and personal responsibility. Wishing her well and a safe journey.

+4
Hector Maclean
Hector Maclean
2 months ago

She rode past this afternoon. Amazing woman. Glenprosen, Angus.

+3
Joanne Elliot
Joanne Elliot
2 months ago

I have been so inspired by this story , thanks for sharing! I was beginning to believe I was too old at 53 . I live in New Zealand and the road users are not very considerate to horses here . There are less and less places that horses can be ridden so the roads are the only choice sometimes. Hope this story continues to go far and wide . God bless you Jane Dotchin and keep you Diamond and Dinky safe … and don’t litter people , pass wide and slow xxx

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yumna
2 months ago

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER. I am amazed and impress by this old lady who is passionate about what she wanted to do and she successfully did this

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Sue Jackson
1 month ago

Thank you for sharing Jane’s story Sam. She sounds a quietly amazing and mindful soul who travels this earth so lightly with few demands or trappings.

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