Dartmoor Derby

/Dartmoor Derby

Moor adventures on horseback – by Sydney Morning Herald

By | 2017-06-02T17:26:12+00:00 June 1st, 2017|

"Everyone thought I was madder than a box of frogs," laughs Elaine Prior, describing the reaction to her idea of running horse riding holidays on Dartmoor National Park. Not only did she have to get permission from the park's governing authority but she also needed the thumbs up from the Duchy of Cornwall – the vast estate owned and operated by the Prince of Wales. A formidable task for most people, but not for Prior, whose indomitable spirit and boundless enthusiasm could convince NASA to run pony treks on Mars. Dartmoor is one of England's last true wildernesses, a 954-square-kilometre landscape of sweeping valleys, marshy peat bogs and exposed granite hilltops called tors. In the southwest of the country, it's a mysterious, mythological place, often swathed in mist and prone to capricious bouts of weather   Most visitors tour the area by car or coach. Which is a shame because they miss out on much of its drama because the handful of roads that criss-cross the park are often lined with stone walls and hedges. Prior wants people to "engage with the landscape", to get them out and about in this haunting scenery and what better way than on horseback. There's only one problem. Her rides are designed for experienced riders who are in "full control of a forward going horse at all paces in wide open spaces". The fact that I have little idea what that statement means tells you all you need to know about my horsemanship.   Of course, in Priorworld, this is not a problem. Her company, Liberty Trails, often caters for couples where one party is more experienced than the other and [...]

Holidaying with your Horse

By | 2017-04-30T13:07:06+00:00 April 28th, 2017|

If going on holiday is the third most traumatic thing you can do after getting divorced and moving house, adding a horse to the equation may sound like madness. That frenzied hunt for camera chargers, the desperate cramming of implausible amounts of luggage into the car, the realisation that the planned time of departure passed 90mins ago — let’s face it, holidays are stressful enough.  Yet for seven years I’ve been hitching up my trailer and taking my mare along with the rest of the family on our annual visits to Dartmoor or the Quantocks, and without doubt it’s doubled the enjoyment. Riders cannot visit the countryside without mentally sketching out their route across it on horseback, and as we all know, it’s the perfect pace and height from which to explore new places.   There are some downsides, admittedly. Even with regular rest and leg-stretch stops, there’s a limit to how far you want to drive your horse in one day. And if you take a lorry, you need to consider what wheels the family will use when you’ve arrived at your destination.  Those of you who feed and muck out daily may prefer a lie in on holiday, and to leave the horses to someone else for a change. And fair enough. But for me, who has always had to keep my horse at livery, it’s a novelty... And though I get up early to ride so I don’t eat into “family time”, an hour and a half of solitude in the saddle sets me up perfectly for a bucket-and-spade day with young children. I suspect I’d go mad without it. Make a booking As a working rider [...]

It wasn’t just the participants that were challenged at this years Derby!

By | 2017-06-19T11:26:53+00:00 March 25th, 2017|

Click here for more information ALL through history, Dartmoor has been used as a place to test people. Just surviving here was a huge test to early settlers of course, but since then whether it’s Napoleonic prisoners of war building leats, or the British Army testing the mettle of recruits on exercise, Dartmoor has a way of showing people they can do more than they think. Amazingly, it’s fully six months since our first full Dartmoor Derby tested our inaugural riders, my organising team and I. It’s fabulous that several who rode last year have rebooked to do so again this September, some even asking for exactly the same horse. Our entries to date are evenly split between riders wanting to hire a local mount, and others who relish the chance to tackle 50-miles of Dartmoor on their own much-loved horse. Very pleasingly, several well-prepared older horses — in their late teens, and one of 21 — came through the ride brilliantly, lapping up the pleasure of a group ride on peaty going. Our riders last year all found something that challenged them, but many also reported how their bond with their horse was strengthened by having completed an adventure like this together: tackling four hour-plus rides in remote countryside is not something many of us can do very often. Need a solution? Ask a soldier People love adventure but with it can come challenges often outside your control: when the rain comes in, or a blister pops, or something you were sure would work, doesn’t. And when it comes to problem solving, you can’t do better than the British Armed Forces. The Dartmoor Derby (like many things in this [...]

Adventures on the Moors of Dartmoor

By | 2017-03-21T21:55:08+00:00 March 3rd, 2017|

Whether you’re a fan of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters or just looking for a beautiful getaway, the English countryside beckons. One of the United Kingdom’s last wilderness regions, Dartmoor includes rolling grasslands, wooded areas and rugged moorland. For a complete experience, Liberty Trails offers the Bovey Castle Horseback Adventure: three nights in a world-class Bovey Castle suite, where you can enjoy amenities like a rejuvenating spa after time riding in your private, customised adventure. Gail Clark of Middleburg, Virginia, went on the Bovey Castle Horseback Adventure as a girls’ trip with her daughter; both are accomplished horsewomen, and Gail shared some of her experience with Sidelines. What was your history with riding before your riding trip? I live on a beautiful horse farm outside of Middleburg, Virginia, and foxhunt with the Piedmont Fox Hounds. I grew up foxhunting in Georgia and spent many years hunting with the Genesee Valley Hunt in Geneseo, New York. I did this trip with my daughter, Laura Clark Katona, who grew up in the horse show world, showing in Palm Beach and Wellington for over 10 years. She now works in New York City. This was a fabulous mother/daughter trip. How did your Bovey Castle Horseback Adventure come about? I actually bought this fabulous riding adventure in New York City at the Countryside Alliance Sporting Auction, which supports the countryside and foxhunting in England. Liberty Trails organized everything including the magnificent stay at Bovey Castle, set in a 275- acre estate in the heart of England’s Dartmoor National Park. Bovey Castle is a Jacobian style mansion overlooking the River Bovey and expansive countryside. How was your stay at Bovey Castle? Bovey Castle was unbelievable; the dinners were like [...]

Welcome to the Wild West – By Sara Cox

By | 2017-07-07T13:51:29+00:00 March 3rd, 2017|

Seven days after completing the first official Dartmoor Derby, I'm still feeling the effects. The ache in my legs from spending umpteen hours in the saddle has now eased, and my creaking back has fallen silent. But one of my symptoms hasn't gone away - a feeling of elation at having spent such a wonderful weekend in the wild. I appreciate that the idea of an endurance horse ride is not everyone's cup of tea, but bear with me - you could be signing up for something similar by the end of it. The Dartmoor Derby is the brainchild of Elaine and Bob Prior, who run Liberty Trails, a riding holiday business. Elaine has boundless energy: imagine a glamorous blonde Tiger in jodhpurs. She was born and bred in this gloriously wild park of Devon and is incredibly proud of the are and the farmers who live here. She wanted to combine her passions - horse riding and the countryside - to create an event that would be an unforgettable experience for the participants, while benefiting the Dartmoor community. The word's toughest horse race was the inspiration. The Mongol Derby is a 10,000km route through the mountains and plains of Mongolia on semi-wild horses. Seeking a UK ride that was just as exciting - but less perilous - Elaine and journalist friend Lucy Higginson (former editor of Horse and House magazine) began to plan a route across the moors. And so the Dartmoor Derby was born. Sara Saddles Up It is late September and I am standing in the reception area of the cosy Arundell Arms Hotel in Lifton, sipping the last of my coffee and meeting my fellow riders. The 45 riders are split [...]

‘Completely Awesome’ Sara Cox praises the Dartmoor Derby to the H&H

By | 2017-03-21T21:55:12+00:00 October 17th, 2016|

BBC TV and Radio presenter Sara Cox was among the 40 riders to complete the first Dartmoor Derby. “It was completely awesome; I loved it,” said Sara, who posted many photos and videos of the ride on her social media accounts” Following a successful pilot last year, the event returned for its first official running on 23-26 September. Riders, including a team from the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals, tackled a 50-mile route in guided groups, supported by ground crews over the three days. […]