How did BBC Two Radio Presenter and DJ Sara Cox get on covering 25 miles of diverse moorland terrain on the first day of the 2015 Dartmoor Derby pilot event? Here she gives her account
When I signed up to ride the Dartmoor Derby pilot event, I suppose I was hoping to regress to being 15 again, out on my pony all day on sandy lanes and stopping at the chip shop for lunch — but with better scenery!
I hadn’t predicted how spectacular Dartmoor would be. The views and scenery are incredible and we haven’t seen any road or sign of life for mile after mile. Apart from Dartmoor ponies scattering in front of you, and occasional herds of Galloway or Highland cattle, or the odd roe deer, it’s just you and your horse; you really feel you can breathe better up on the moors.
Why Tetley’s just my cup of tea
I’ve ridden a variety of horses over the years, from my farm pony when I was a teenager, to racehorses — I have twice ridden in the ladies charity race at Goodwood, the Magnolia Cup. But I am now officially in love with Tetley.
Our group’s horses, fit local hunters, arrived for us. Then off the lorry came this huge, gorgeous piebald hunk, Tetley — and he was for me… His name — apparently given because he was born at teatime — was a good sign because I do like a good cup of tea!
I’m quite long-legged so I feel a bit odd on some smaller horses, but Tetley was a big old unit, and felt like an armchair. He’s very sweet natured, but he’s also a machine. On this sort of terrain, you have to put so much trust in them, crossing boggy places or avoiding jutting rocks. But if you don’t interfere, they know their way. I admit I closed my eyes in one or two places.
To ride this distance in a day over such varied terrain — it’s a good mix of riding, and quite a challenge, and there are bits that really get your blood pumping.
A picnic lunch, Downton-style
Our lunch stop was a far cry from the “chip barm”
[chip butty] I’d get as a teenager when I was out riding. This was like something out of Downton Abbey; a linen tablecloth against another fantastic view, laden with Scotch eggs, quiche and Caesar salads. I didn’t need the trifle laid on for pudding but had some anyway. It was also a chance for some on-the-hoof repairs; two horses had lost shoes so the farrier arrived to put new ones on.
At the end of the day we rode into an incredible camp, washed off the horses and found tea and cakes and scones waiting for the riders. I keep quite fit, and I’m feeling fine at the end of the first day. I don’t feel like I’ve done an endurance ride, but I bet Tetley does.
Everything’s been so well organised, I couldn’t recommend it enough. In fact, if Carlsberg did riding holidays…