Moor adventures on horseback – by Sydney Morning Herald

By |2019-06-07T11:32:46+00:00June 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 |2019-06-10T10:41:59+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 [...]

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

By |2019-06-07T10:57:09+00:00March 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 [...]