A Dartmoor farmer is offering the UK’s only cattle driving horse riding holidays to allow competent riders the chance to bring their own horses for a taste of the cowboy life.
The use of horses to round up animals on the moor goes back centuries and Philip Heard, who farms 660 acres at Meldon near Okehampton, is one of a small number keeping this tradition alive.
He said: “Quad bikes have taken over on many farms over the past 20 years but we continue to use horses due to the terrain.
“We believe the cattle are quieter and move at a gentler pace when moved on horseback. Cattle have a natural respect for horses, while horses soon learn to pre-empt what the cattle are going to do.”
Phil rides Western style, while his wife Mandi rides English, so either is acceptable for visitors.
Each drive takes about three hours and covers about eight km as the cattle are pushed out beyond High Willhayes and Yes Tor to the middle of the moors.
Phil says cattle driving on horseback enables riders to capture the real magic of the moors with the horses enjoying the sense of freedom riding in vast open spaces gives.
There are various options for “wannabe” cowboys, from attending on just one day to staying at the local inn and helping for a week.
The next round-up is on 18-19 June, including a natural horsemanship clinic but there are various other activities through the year until September.
Prices range from £299 for two nights to £749 for a week.
More details can be found at www.dartmoorridingholidays.co.uk.