For thousands of years horses were our constant companion. For work, sport, travel, leisure, they were integral to the fabric of our lives, before being replaced by machinery in the Industrial Revolution and gradually fading from our everyday experience.

Now, there’s a Fife man on a mission to change things – one ride at a time.
27-year-old Louis Hall is the co-founder of The Big Hoof alongside Kiki Ho, a charity that aims to raise money for vital good causes by embarking on long-distance horse rides. But for Louis, of equal importance to raising money is raising awareness of the beneficial impact that horses can have.

“In the UK there is a slight stigma around horses,” he explains, “and so I wanted to recognise all the horse can do for us. Almost everyone would have had one up until the 20th Century, but now it is a thing that belongs to certain sections of society, teenage girls for example. That is completely wrong because in Europe people still have them as part of their livelihoods.”

Louis admits he was himself ambivalent to horses growing up. But aged 18 he went travelling with friends in Mongolia, where they used ponies to travel to meet an ancient tribe in the wilderness.

“One of my friends who I was with at the time was having terrible mental health issues,” he explains. “In those four weeks I could see how the horses drew out the depression he was having, made him feel so present, so peaceful. It was extraordinary to watch. 

“Ever since then, my understanding of horses completely changed, they were no longer things to be put in a stable, or pranced round an arena. They aren’t for a certain section of society, they are for everyone, from the bottom up. Horses are a ‘feeling’ animal, they bring people together but can also have a very personal impact on how they make you feel.”

In 2020 Louis decided to combine his passion for horses with a fundraising drive for the cystic fibrosis trust after he lost a close friend to the disease. He rode a horse from John O’Groats to Lands End, raising almost £40,000 after the expedition captured public imagination. Louis realised he had stumbled across “something special”, establishing The Big Hoof as a formal charity and embarking on more rides in aid of different charities. 

The National: The latest Big Hoof Adventure

His most recent challenge was to ride the route of St Columba’s Way, an ancient pilgrimage route that follows the journey that St Columba took in the Sixth Century to spread Christianity across Scotland. Louis and his horse were joined by three other horses and 40 volunteers who travelled with them on foot for various parts of their journey from St Andrews to the Isle of Iona, raising money for Scottish charity The Venture Trust.

“It’s amazing to navigate your way across Scotland using these ancient trails. There is some really beautiful land, fjords to cross, rivers to cross, stunning scenery. Everyone joins together with these animals and you go at the horse’s pace. It is slow, it makes you present, it makes you still, it makes you care for something beyond yourself and be responsible. As we look to become more sustainable, more connected to nature, using horses for travel is a big part of that. I think the horse has found its place again.”

As well as raising money for valuable causes – the Venture Trust supports those suffering from addiction and trauma – Louis hopes that seeing his team trekking across the country will prove inspiring to others. 

“The point of doing these rides in the UK is to make them as accessible as possible. I want to inspire people and promote pushing yourself a bit beyond your comfort zone. Not everything comes to you at the swipe of a finger, you have to go out and work hard for it – but it’s so much more rewarding that way.”

All are welcome to join the Big Hoof treks, Louis stresses, for whatever duration is manageable. He has received “extraordinary” testimonials from those who have taken part in previous rides: “When I know people feel better about their lives, or feel inspired, then I know I’ve done some good.”

He is planning a ride across Romania later this year and a highly ambitious challenge trek from Montana to Mexico in 2024. A short film has been made about a previous ride he did across Europe and he has also written a book about his experiences. 

Above all, he says, he wants to showcase “the power of the horse” and the good that they can do, ensuring they remain not just part of our past, but our future too.

The National: The latest Big Hoof Adventure



Uist Community Riding School, Isle Of Uist

Pristine white beaches and clear blue water makes Uist a glorious place to visit. But exploring the island on horseback makes the experience even more special. Uist Community Riding School enables visitors to enjoy a guided beach walk, with horses to suit all ages and abilities.

Blackstone Farm Clydesdales, Ayrshire

Big and strong, Clydesdale horses have long been relied upon for pulling heavy loads. Blackstone Farm, in Cumnock, are aiming to put the fun back into the breed and dispel the myth that Clydesdales are cumbersome or slow. They offer horse riding experiences on the farm, around the nearby woodland or on the local beach.

Wilder Ways, Campbeltown, Kintyre

Based in the ruggedly beautiful Kintyre peninsula, Wilder Ways encourage their customers to switch off from the demands of modern life and build a meaningful bond with horses. Their adventures range from half day treks to week-long, all-inclusive holiday packages, where you can enjoy everything from horseback archery to beach gallops and even swimming with horses.