A SCOTTISH adventurer has ridden thousands of kilometers across Europe on horseback to raise money to support Ukrainian refugees.

Louis Hall, originally from Edinburgh, returned to Scotland last week after completing a 2789km journey on horseback over 110 days. He kicked off the journey from Siena, Italy, before finally ending up in Cape Finisterre, Spain, a place known as the “end of the world”.

The epic journey isn’t the first trip Hall has taken in the name of charity as back in 2020 he rode a highland pony from John O’Groats to Land’s End in memory of a friend who died of cystic fibrosis. It was this trip that started his organisation The Big Hoof, which gave him the platform to look for new challenges to raise money for charity.

Hall says that his European odyssey was inspired by a desire to raise awareness for mental health after losing a friend to suicide.

Louis Hall made the journey from Italy to Spain over 110 daysHall said the trip created an incredible bond between him and his horse

He said: “The frequency of people struggling with mental health issues in my generation is enormous and I think it has a lot to do with people feeling trapped and not being able to work out what they can do to express themselves freely and feel life inside them.

“And I think doing an adventure of any sort, but especially connecting with an animal like a horse, is a great way of helping with your mental health.”

However, with the breakout of the war in Ukraine, Hall felt that he needed to connect his latest endeavour with the people struggling in the conflict. It was this realisation that led him to find Amna, a charity that helps refugees on the borders of Ukraine.

The money raised by Hall will go to help child welfare among refugees and to efforts to destigmatise refugees being ‘a people’ and help them create a sense of being individuals again. This will include therapy sessions to aid in recovery from trauma.

On the actual journey itself, Hall says it was the challenge of a lifetime, especially with his animal companion as it was the first time a horse had ever crossed the Ligurian Mountains in their entirety.

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Hall described crossing the mountain range as “the biggest relief of my life” as he traversed them at one of the most difficult times of year.

He said: “I realised that in April people are still skiing and I’m meant to cross this with a horse. Napoleon crossed the alps in May and Hannibal crossed the alps in June, and for good reason …

“I never expected anything so difficult. Over the space of 20 days we did the equivalent of 12 marathons and climbed Ben Nevis 10 times. In the snow and the conditions, it was not easy at all.

“There were a lot of moments in that when I was thinking this is unpassable and to get through that was brilliant.”

Louis Hall made the journey from Italy to Spain over 110 daysHall had to cross the mountains in extreme weather conditions

And after crossing the Ligurian mountains, he and his horse Sasha had to face the Maritime alps, an experience in which Hall said he was “the closest to death [he] had ever been”.

He added: “There was a 1500 metre drop which was fine but the path turned into rock and the rock turned into boulder. It got to the point where we couldn’t turn back because it would be the same as going forward so you have to keep going.

“The boulders got bigger and bigger and the gaps got worse and worse. I had no idea how we were going to get out of this.”

Louis Hall made the journey from Italy to Spain over 110 daysLouis and his horse Sasha

However, Hall says the danger only served to bring him and his horse Sasha closer together.

He said: “That day changed everything really. If there was no connection beforehand, there certainly was after. It was very difficult but when you go through these moments with another animal, it certainly makes you stronger.”

Louis Hall made the journey from Italy to Spain over 110 daysHall said the reception back home to his journey has been incredible

Thanking those who aided him and his equine companion, Hall told The National: “Without luck, the enduring kindness of strangers and the courage of Sasha (my Arabian horse), none of this would have been possible. But together, as a ‘companion machine’, crossing three countries and three mountain ranges, we made it.”