A former racehorse who had wins and placings with Richard Johnson and A P McCoy has taken on a new role in Dartmoor.

Rio De Sivola has been assisting Verity Nicholls with drifts since he arrived at her Devon farm two and a half years ago.

The drifts, which involve gathering in the ponies from the moors in to check stock,and take place from the end of September through to mid-October.

“Although most people go out on quads, I ride an ex-racehorse gathering in,” Verity told H&H.

“Some other people still go out on horses but most use farm plods. You don’t get many racehorses.”

Eight-year-old “Rio” came from Nick Williams’ yard and belongs to a syndicate in London.

“He won with Richard Dunwoody and was second with A P McCoy,” said Verity.

“We had him to freshen him up, to see if we could get the buzz back, and since then he’s hunted and done drifts and cattle work.

“Horses have to be quite powerful to push the cattle as they will stand their ground. The horse almost has to puff themselves up and want to shift them.

“The ponies wind him up and it’s much more fast and furious [than with the cattle]. I take him out alongside quad bikes and go to the places the quads don’t go so much.”

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Verity runs a herd of Dartmoor ponies as well as training point-to-point horses.

“I’ve always used racehorses for the getting in,” she added.

“Some don’t take to it and some get too wound up. If you have a horse that has a brain and can cover the ground easily and quickly it’s brilliant. You feel like John Wayne.”

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