Holidaying with your Horse

By |2019-09-27T10:41:36+00:00April 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 [...]

Harper’s Bazaar joined us on Dartmoor for the Liberty Trails experience

By |2019-09-27T10:40:19+00:00May 24th, 2016|

Dartmoor is a wild country full of mists and stories, ghosts and traces of the far distant past. In the heart of Dartmoor is the grave of Kitty Jay. According to legend, she was a young village girl who killed herself sometime in the late 18th century after becoming pregnant. As a suicide she was buried at a crossroads outside the village of Manaton. There are always fresh flowers laid by the headstone and no one knows who puts them there. A film company once set up secret cameras to catch the mysterious flower giver, but a mist came down during the night; when it had lifted again, there were new blooms on the grave. Dartmoor is like this: a wild country full of mists and stories, ghosts and traces of the far distant past (not to mention The Hound of the Baskervilles). There are neolithic stone circles, Bronze Age monuments, noble old buildings, mysterious standing stones and, of course, spectacular views in almost 1000 square kilometres of national park. But ho to see all of this? There are few roads, so travelling by car you’d miss most of the natural beauty, walking would only show you a tiny portion of the whole, and only a masochist would bike up to the top of those imposing granite tors. The obvious answer is to ride. And the place to go for that is Liberty Trails. Elaine Prior, who runs the company, was born and bred on Dartmoor and has a deep love for the countryside. She also has a passion for horses, as well as quite liking her home comforts, having spent years living on the Côte d'Azur. As a result, her guided trails strike [...]

The Independent features Liberty Trails

By |2019-09-27T10:54:16+00:00March 17th, 2016|

Dartmoor horse riding holidays:  You don't have to cross the Atlantic to have a go at being a cowgirl Weak sunlight glints on the horizon. In the distance, a man on horseback crests a hill, his steed heading towards us at full gallop, silhouetted against the azure-blue sky. From his outline I can just about make out a cowboy hat and spurs. One hand is raised slightly, signalling to us, while the other clutches slack reins, giving the charging horse microscopic signals as it snorts and slows to a canter. I could easily be in the Wild West, but I’m actually on Dartmoor. This expansive area of moorland in south Devon, which covers 954sq km and is protected by National Park status, has long captured the imagination. Its boggy landscape was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book The Hound of the Baskervilles. More recently, it appeared on screen in Stephen Spielberg’s adaptation of Warhorse. The myth, though, has always been of a land shrouded in fog and mystery; impenetrable and sometimes spooky terrain that stretches out over an unfathomable distance. Luxury horse riding holiday company Liberty Trails, however, has set out to prove there’s more to the moors. It invites experienced riders to take on Dartmoor’s challenging terrain on spirited horses that know the land like the back of their hooves. Led by guides (all born and bred in Dartmoor), groups of riders join founder Elaine Prior on tailored treks across the moorland. This year, Liberty Trails will run the first ever Dartmoor Derby in September. Loosely based on African riding safaris (Elaine used to live in South Africa) and the infamous Mongol Derby, it will see skilled riders take to the [...]