The Gaitpost was delighted to catch up with Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound and test rider at the Dartmoor Derby pilot event, to hear more about this unique, luxury multi-day riding challenge inspired by the rugged and breathtaking annual challenge across the Steppes, the Mongol Derby, and the enduring appeal of chic African riding safaris.
Sara Cox with her horse Tetley during The Dartmoor Derby Credit: Hamish Mitchell/Liberty Trails
Around 30 riders, including BBC Radio 2 presenter Sara Cox andLucy Wiegersma, took part in the pilot event (24 to 28 September) ahead of its first official running in September 2016. Riding Club London helped to market the event and gave guidance on communications and attracting the event to equestrians who were after a unique and extraordinary riding experience.
Speaking after the event, Sara Cox said,
“I hadn’t predicted how spectacular Dartmoor would be. It’s quite a challenge to ride miles over such varied terrain.. but there are bits that really get your blood pumping. This has been so well organised; I really couldn’t recommend it more.”
The pilot event riders tackled over 20 miles each day, overnighting at either a luxury hotel (the Arundell Arms and Bovey Castle) or a specially constructed moorland camp and horse station. British eventer and Dartmoor Derby Ambassador Lucy Wiegersmasaid, “The Dartmoor Derby is a fabulous concept… I had a great time”
The idea is the brainchild of Elaine Prior, Founder of Liberty Trails, to which Dartmoor holds a special place:
“The Dartmoor Derby is a brilliant opportunity for participants to experience the dramatic landscape and varied scenery that makes Dartmoor a world class destination for riding safaris.”
Other pilot event riders included Riding Club London member Kate Rudwick, who said “I want to do it again!” and Shelley Bates, who completed the Mongol Derby commented, “It is gorgeous countryside with a huge mix of terrain, and more rugged than I meet when I do endurance riding. It’s been well organised with great horses.”
From chatting to Lucy Higginson, it is clear the event was a huge success and the 2016 Dartmoor Derby does sound incredibly tempting:
“Helping to develop and promote the Dartmoor Derby has been a slightly new departure for me after so many years in pure journalism. But having seen Elaine’s existing business at work, and having ridden and holidayed several times on Dartmoor, besides being a riding safari nut, I thought the concept was brilliant. And so it proved.. The pilot of course gave us pointers to things that could be done differently or slightly better which will be acted on for next year, but it went hugely well as the riders’ responses testified.”
Due to the success of the pilot event, the 2016 Dartmoor Derby has bigger and grander plans:
It’s an opportunity to navigate a carefully planned,three- to six-day ride around stunning countryside. Through the course of it you may camp in a selection of specially constructed comfortable moorland camps purpose-built for the event, spend nights in luxury hotels, and enjoy fantastic, locally-sourced food.
Riders — limited to a maximum of 100, riding in small teams of four to six — are invited to bring their own horse for the Derby, or may hire a fit horse with plentiful experience of Dartmoor terrain through the organisers.
The Dartmoor Derby is a luxury riding challenge, and while participants will need to be established and fit riders, confident at every pace, this is not a race and there is no need to jump.
Participants may tailor their accommodation plan, customising the camping to hotel ratios of their visit according to their wishes. Each camp will have a different theme, from a Mongolian-inspired yurt camp to an African style bush camp. Naturally, there is full medical and veterinary support throughout the ride.
Price points vary from:
> £1,250 for three days riding and four nights accommodation on your own horse (£1,750 with horse hire included), to..
> £2,500 for a six-day ride (£3,000 with a horse provided)
> There is a further mid-range option priced at £1,800 (£2,300 with a horse provided).
The 2016 Dartmoor Derby will start on Friday 23rd September 2016.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07967 823674 to find out more.