Telegraph Travel Feature – Riding Holiday with Special Needs

By |2019-02-15T16:03:52+00:00February 15th, 2019|

Careful planning let my sister achieve her dream' – a siblings-only holiday horse riding in Dartmoor In a rare moment of peace, my sister Tamsin and I sat side-by-side on our horses at the top of North Hessary Tor. It was early morning. The curling Dartmoor mist had receded to the valleys and the rolling hills beckoned with tufty grasses and mysterious megalithic monuments. Everything was still. One of the horses harrumphed and a ground nesting bird chirped as it took sudden flight. Tamsin is autistic so travelling hasn’t always been easy; she doesn’t cope very well with change and gets anxious in unfamiliar places. I wasn’t sure if I could pull off a holiday on our own. Those with close relatives on the spectrum will know the stomach-churning struggle: tantrums under restaurant tables, arguments over wearing suitable clothes, refusing to get off the floor of a plane aisle – refusing to get on the plane at all (New Zealand, 2011). And if it’s not the constant stares and the terrible arguments we’ve had with strangers who don’t understand that Tamsin doesn’t have an “indoor voice” (especially because they see she’s a 24-year-old adult), it’s the feeling of constantly needing to apologise. Next usually comes the gut-wrenching guilt after an unfair snap at her to – for goodness sake – shut up and get on with it. As frustrating as it’s been, the laughs outweigh the tears. At times she’s had my 21-year-old brother and me in such uncontrollable states of laughter that my parents have publicly told us off for behaving badly (most recently in Puglia, 2018. I was 28.) In fact, Puglia is very close to our hearts. My parents tackled the holiday [...]

Noelle Floyd – Magic on the Moor

By |2019-06-07T07:49:48+00:00December 12th, 2018|

Words by Emma Hunter Photography by Paul Quagliana Inspired by the famous Mongol Derby across the rugged steppes of Mongolia, the Dartmoor Derby is a 50-mile weekend riding challenge traversing throughout the Dartmoor National Park in England. Following long days on horseback, riders camp in Mongolian-style yurts and enjoy delicious, locally-sourced food. This year’s Derby, held in late September, attracted 22 riders from three different countries and all walks of life. The author, Emma Hunter, lives in the Cotswolds, England, with her horse, Duckling, and dog, Indiana, and works as an engineer for a Formula One team. She has ridden in two previous Dartmoor Derbies and is “ fully willing to admit that I have become somewhat addicted,” she says. “I love the thrill of riding out across Dartmoor on wonderful horses whilst in the company of like-minded people, and all the while being fuelled with exquisite food.” Emma relives her three-day excursion of galloping across the field of green. DAY 1: The Dawning of Dartmoor It’s always a ‘wow’ moment when Dartmoor starts to appear on the horizon, even more so when it’s bathed in sunshine and you are splashing through puddles. Puddles, because in the three-hour drive from the Cotswolds to Dartmoor, I experienced nearly the full range of weather being hurled at the U.K. – from glorious sunshine to sideways rain. This year the camp was based on the grounds of the HM Prison Dartmoor at Princetown, though rest assured, we were a good distance away from the infamous blocks of prison which have housed some of the U.K.’s most notorious criminals! I love getting into camp on the first day; everyone appreciates the hard work that has gone into [...]

Sidelines Magazine Dartmoor Derby Feature

By |2018-12-11T15:26:51+00:00December 11th, 2018|

by Pam Lazor It all started a few years ago, when Theresa Sanders’ non-horsey sister told her she had read a travel magazine article about the Dartmoor Derby in England — four days of challenging rides on horseback through the picturesque countryside of Dartmoor National Park. Theresa, a cardiology nurse and research supervisor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, rode and showed her two warmblood hunters with trainer Janet Salem of Patchwork Farm in addition to foxhunting. The thought of the ride piqued Theresa’s interest, and she decided to make the trip to England. Theresa registered for the September 2016 Dartmoor Derby and began focusing on fitness and stamina for the demanding ride. “I wanted to be prepped and well-conditioned to get the most out of the ride,” Theresa said. One week before boarding a plane to southwest England, she was injured while foxhunting. “My horse bucked me off, and even though I landed on my feet, when I put my left foot in the stirrup to get back on, there was pain during and after my ride,” she said. “I was in total denial, but X-rays later revealed a broken ankle.” Determined to live the dream she’d waited and prepared for during the past year, Theresa exercised under supervision in her casted leg, jokingly bound herself in bubble-wrap for a photograph, and put her name on the registration list for the 2017 Dartmoor Derby. England at Last Accommodations during the Derby are comfortable and unique. “Some chose to stay in the luxury yurts and others chose to stay in the castle,” Theresa explained. “Being a bit of a princess, I chose to stay in the [...]

Riding the Dartmoor Derby has been a dream three years in the making for me

By |2018-12-07T14:28:10+00:00October 24th, 2018|

Dartmoor Derby UK Horse Riding Weekend Riding the Dartmoor Derby has been a dream three years in the making for me. Some dreams are worth the wait. I finally rode the Dartmoor Derby from September 21-23rd and it lived up to all of the hype and expectations that I had for it. by Stacey Stearns First, a little background; the Dartmoor Derby was founded by Elaine Prior of Liberty Trails and brings the speed, excitement, endurance, and fun of the Mongolian Derby and luxury of an African Safari to the moors of England. The Derby had a trial run in 2015, and this was the third year Liberty Trails hosted a group of riders on Dartmoor. Riders are in groups of eight, and can bring their own horses or hire a hunter-type horse for the ride. We had 22 riders from three different countries this year, forming three different groups. Each group has two local guides, and at least two ground crew members. The guides re-ride the Derby routes prior to the event each September. The plan for the Derby is to arrive on Friday and have a short ride to get to know the horses. Then it’s full days of riding on Saturday and Sunday, and departure on Monday morning. Each year, the Derby is up to 50 miles of riding across Dartmoor. High winds and heavy rain forced some last minute changes to the Derby this year, but the organizers took it all in stride. They switched the short Friday ride to Saturday, and planned a longer distance for Friday, telling us all to wear our rain gear both days. I knew we were riding soon after arrival, so was [...]

Kenyan doctor takes to the saddle for latest Dartmoor Derby challenge

By |2019-06-07T11:05:48+00:00October 20th, 2017|

The second Dartmoor Derby successfully concluded last month to rave reviews from participants, including one rider who came all the way from Kenya to take part.  Organised by seasoned adventure riding specialists Liberty Trails, the Derby is a three-day challenge in which small guided teams cover around 50 miles, with most guests staying in a purpose-built luxury camp. Bettina Vadera, a flying doctor in Kenya, was one of five nationalities to join a number of British riders in the second Dartmoor Derby, which took place from September 22-25. Riders from America, Denmark and Germany took part besides Bettina, who drew parallels between Dartmoor’s beauty and that of Kenya: “It’s such a contrast to being in Kenya in so many ways, and yet at other moments, seeing the horizon on 360 degrees, with this yellow grass and these vistas, my friends at home would say ‘Isn’t this the Mara’?” The Dartmoor Derby is a proudly Westcountry event, with many horses, the guides and ground crew, catering, many cooking ingredients, yurts and more sourced in Devon. The extremely high water table on the moors this autumn meant that routes were planned with meticulous care, with the needs of landowners and farmers in mind besides those of the horses. Founder and organiser Elaine Prior, of Liberty Trials, said: “We have been quite overcome with the magnificent feedback guests have given us, and the number of them intending to rebook for next year. “Though we experienced everything from glorious sunshine to fog and drizzle, the region has quite definitely worked its way into their hearts.” Pictures: Polly Baldwin

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 [...]

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 [...]

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

By |2019-06-11T08:45:31+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 [...]

Horse and Hound announce Sara Cox will be taking part in Dartmoor Derby 2016

By |2017-07-07T13:52:53+00:00May 23rd, 2016|

DJ and television presenter Sara Cox is among those who have signed up to take on this year’s 100km Dartmoor Derby. After a successful trial last year, riders from across the world have agreed to take part in the three-day moorland trek, for which riders bring their own horses or hire them through organisers Liberty Trails. Participants can also look forward to “luxury pitstops in top hotels or specially built safari-style camps”. Sara, who also rode in the shorter pilot ride last year, is looking forward to this year’s event, which runs from 23 to 26 September. “I hadn’t predicted how spectacular Dartmoor would be,” she said. “The views and scenery are incredible. And the mid-ride lunches and overnight camps are like something out of Downton Abbey.” H&H hunting editor Polly Portwin also took part in last year’s 50-mile ride, which she described as “sheer heaven”. She added: “There is no doubt about it, the views on Dartmoor are just breathtaking and really must be seen to be believed. “It was a truly remarkable weekend and with options to camp, stay in luxury or mid-range hotels or a combination of the two, the Dartmoor Derby 2016 is definitely worth considering.” A percentage of every ride entrance fee will go to the British Horse Society’s (BHS) Helping Horses programme, an appeal in aid of its welfare work.  BHS chief executive Lynn Petersen said: “The British Horse Society is proud to join Liberty Trails as charity partner for its Dartmoor Derby challenge ride. What a wonderful way to explore magnificent Dartmoor. “We are delighted that all the funds we receive from this partnership will go directly towards helping horses in distress across the United Kingdom.” To read the [...]