The advantages of a riding holiday in the UK with your own horse are plenty: holidays on horseback offer a rare chance to explore safe, off-road riding, while ditching a plane in favour of a trailer is far more environmentally friendly. Also, given the current exchange rates and economic climate, this type of holiday can be kinder on the bank balance.
Vyv Wood-Gee has been holidaying with her horse for 17 years. She has ventured along most of the promoted riding routes in Britain, including the Jack Mytton Way, the Ridgeway and John O’Groats to Land’s End.
Each year, long-distance rider Vyv and her friend Sarah Riley plan a week away to complete a ride that involves staying in B&Bs. Most of these are sourced via the British Horse Society’s book, B&B for Horses. The pair spend eight to 10 hours a day in the saddle and expect to cover between 16 and 26 miles.
“Be confident, be prepared and do your research,” Sarah advises. “The bridleways are out there and they are becoming increasingly accessible and available.”
The cost of a week away is never more than £300.
“At the end of the week I just want to keep riding into the sunset — there’s nothing better,” says Vyv, whose best advice for those who haven’t been on holiday with their horse before is to go somewhere within easy reach for a night or weekend.
Exmoor and Dartmoor are “way ahead of the rest of the country in terms of B&B accommodation,” according to Vyv.
She adds: “I’ve stayed at hundreds of places with my horses, everything from mountain digs to super-plush livery yards. It is not necessarily the established stables that are the best, either.”
Fiona Cameron and her husband enjoyed two riding trips last year, one over the Marlborough Downs and the other across the Welsh Borders. They sourced both through a package holiday company called Bridle Rides.
“It’s the best way of seeing the countryside; it’s fun and especially good for forging a bond with a new horse,” says Fiona.
Bridle Rides offers holidays in 18 areas and Fiona has also been to the Black Mountains, Cranborne Chase, Exmoor and the Sussex Downs. Riders are given plotted routes, detailed notes and maps, while places to stay are booked in advance.
“It’s affordable and very accommodating,” says Fiona.
Kay O’Brian’s children, aged nine and 11, were browsing the UK Chasers website one day when they discovered Home Farm, Hallington, in the Lincolnshire Wolds. Living in land-locked Leicestershire, pictures of miles of sandy beaches had the pair badgering their parents to go there on holiday with their ponies.
A swimming pool and a tennis court meant their non-horsey father didn’t get bored and the children made full use of the farm’s UK Chasers course, manège and nearby beach. The holiday was such a success that the O’Brians went back for New Year.
The UK Chasers handbook is a good source for finding smallholdings with stables offering B&B accommodation.
David Talbot, one of its directors, says: “We started listing horse holidays four years ago because riders kept asking for them. Now 20 per cent of our 45 courses are geared towards them.”
Lucienne Bennett has a smallholding in the Brecon Beacons called The Wern, and she has developed a four-day riding loop with three other farms, which she promotes through the UK Chasers handbook.
“It’s the one place we want to go back to,” says endurance rider Sue Rimes. “The food was fantastic and Lucienne puts a huge amount of work into the routes.”
Perhaps this is the year to put the passport away and explore the beauty of Britain from horseback.
- UK Chasers www.ukchasers.com
- British Horse Society www.bhs.org.uk
- Bridle Rides www.bridlerides.co.uk
- Home Farm www.canter-hallington.co.uk
- The Wern www.bennettthewern.vispa.com
- Stonetrail Holidays www.stonetrailholidays.com
B&B for Horses is available from the BHS Bookshop for £6.95 plus £2 p&p. Tel: 08701 201918 or buy online at www.britishhorse.com