A book about the adventures of a Perthshire horse rider, her rescue pony and deaf dog has won an international literary award.
In 2017, Karen Inkster completed a mission which saw her travel the length of the Outer Hebrides with her Standardbred Connie and collie Pip to raise more than £6,000 for Riding for the Disabled and Dogs Trust.
Karen, 45, went on to give talks about the trip and wrote a book about her adventure called The Deaf, The Daft and The Ditsy, donating proceeds from both to charities.
The gruelling 16-day journey saw the daring trio trek 270km from Vatersay near Barra to Stornoway, visiting 13 islands along the way.
Karen, who lives near Dunkeld, named the book The Deaf, The Daft and The Ditsy primarily due to Pip being hard of hearing and Connie being described as a bit “ditsy.”
The book has now won the International Equine Travel award from the Equus Film Festival 2020.
“I cannot believe it!” said Karen.
“Honestly, I had to read the email five times and then watch the YouTube clip where they announced the winners!”
Karen was contacted last year by the organisers to see if she wanted to submit her book for consideration for the 2020 awards.
“I honestly thought I had absolutely no chance of winning,” she said.
“A few weeks before the final I had a look at the entries and there were some amazing contributions, some from some quite famous authors!
“I thought, well, it’s really nice to have been asked and see my wee book there.
“I didn’t even watch the awards ceremony as I thought there was no point.
“I got an email this week saying that I had won! I still think I am dreaming!”
Karen is still selling the book with proceeds going to animal charities.
She has raised more than £7,000 to date.
Anyone looking for inspiration for Christmas presents can order a copy of Karen’s book at the Facebook page of The Deaf, The Daft and The Ditsy, or email Karen at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cross country, show-jumping, dressing, endurance riding – Karen has experimented with most forms of equestrianism.
But there’s a major difference between Karen’s style of riding and that of other riders in that she uses a bitless bridle on her horses.
To the uninformed, that may mean very little. But to Karen, it’s a much more humane way of riding.
“Many people use harsh bits and tie horses’ mouths shut with tight nosebands and martingales (sets of straps attached to reins) to control them,” she said.
“This can cause pain, long-term damage to the mouth and can restrict breathing. That’s why I decided to go bitless.”
Karen’s endeavours attracted the attention of the World Bitless Association who were so impressed they named Karen the very first World Bitless Champion Ambassador last year.
Karen believes societies such as The British Horse Society, British Dressage and the FEI (Fédération Équestre Internationale) need to change their rules to allow for bitless competing.
“It’s ridiculous they don’t allow competing without a bit,” she said.
“But I feel that increasingly, people are becoming more aware and looking at alternative, more humane ways of riding.”
Karen is in the process of setting up a natural equine centre near Dunkeld called Equine Unlimited, with the tagline, “where the horse comes first”.
It will promote barefoot and bitless riding and positive reinforcement training techniques, allowing owners and riders to seek the best possible relationship with their horse without the use of dominance, force or pain.
Courses will be run covering a range of topics from clicker training, trimming horses’ feet to how to pack for an overnight trip camping in the hills with your horse.
You can follow developments on the Equine Unlimited Facebook page.