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Mount up for a horse ride across the untamed landscape of Dartmoor
9th February 2015
Was there ever an area more suited to exploring on horseback than Dartmoor? Steeped in folklore and with ever-changing scenery, it’s impossible to tire of this wild terrain.
I took to the saddle for a 22-mile (35km) adventure with Liberty Trails, which specialises in long-distance rides across Dartmoor. Their beautiful, sure-footed quarter horses – a popular American breed of small, fast horses used for races and rodeos – are a delight to ride or horse owners can bring their own steeds for the excursion.
Elaine Michelle Prior, Liberty Trails’ founder, grew up exploring these moors on ponies and now organises small, tailor-made rides through the national park. Experienced riders can take on single- or multi-day tramps through the park’s wild places or explore War Horse territory with a tailored ride visiting locations from the movie. There’s even a chance to join the cattle drives in late spring.
Long distance horse-riding is not for the unfit or the delicate of behind but it is an immensely rewarding way to immerse yourself in the landscape and explore off the beaten track. While six hours in the saddle was testing, I found that what is hard on the backside is good for the soul.
I got up bright and early to meet Fred, the glossy horse who would be my partner in adventure. Our guide was farmer Phil Heard, who knows the moors inside and out and can read the land effortlessly. He rode ahead to lead the way, kitted out in a Stetson and floor-length coat, like a Devonian version of the Marlboro man...
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