Imagine a horseback adventure in one of Britain’s finest areas of wilderness. Imagine riding and navigating for days across moorland, through woods and valleys, crossing rivers, past ancient stone circles and through golden gorse and purple heather. It is countryside Steven Spielberg felt barely able to do justice in his wonderful movie, War Horse.
Imagine seeing the world at your feet, the sea beyond, and all framed to perfection between a horse’s pricked ears.
At the day’s end you reach a specially constructed safari camp, where luxury beds, superb food and plentiful hot water await you and your four-legged team mates.
This is the vision behind a spectacular new equestrian event taking place in 2016, the Dartmoor Derby. This year we are running the pilot event.
The Dartmoor Derby is inspired by the Mongol Derby, but is very different. The horses will be beautifully schooled, overnight stops luxurious and the food quite fabulous. It will also be a multi-day ride (much shorter) and not a race as such.
The information and learnings we gathered through an in-depth feasibility study in the spring, showed us this is a very viable and popular idea.
OUR NEXT STEP is to run an exclusive, pilot version of the event in September of this year (2015), specially invited group of riders, a foretaste of the full Dartmoor Derby experience. This will involve only 30 riders, including a range of celebrities and press, with some 15 or so places open to the general public. It has always been our aim that this ride would attract an international audience, and as such we would like to extend an invitation to members of the American distance riding community to be among the exclusive group riding in this year’s pilot event.
The dates for this year’s event are 24-28 September. The format is NOT the precise format that will be used in 2016, but will be as follows:
> The circular route will take in very varied terrain, through gorse (in full bloom), open moorland, forests, ancient stone circles, sites of historic interest and some of the best views in the world
> This year involves three nights stay with two full days riding over a total distance of approx 80km (about 24 miles a day)
> Two of these three nights will be in a luxury hotel, on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis. The other will be a night of very comfortable glamping in a specially constructed temporary camp in an exquisite spot on the moors. Your luggage requirements for a night in camp will be delivered to the camp for you. Superb food will be cooked (using local Dartmoor produce) in a field kitchen on site by a top chef.
> Riders will travel in teams of five, with a guide
> The event is very happy to provide horses for riders.
> There will be full veterinary and farrier support throughout the event
> While there is definitely a long-distance ride, this is not a race; while it will be necessary to maintain a reasonable pace to complete the ride within daylight hours, the aim is to complete the ride with your horse in first class condition and having had a brilliant time. It is not necessary for either horse or rider to have had experience of endurance riding.
> Riders do not need to enter as a team, but will be put into teams of like-minded riders by the organisers
> Riders may choose either to arrive in Devon on Thursday 24 Sept and leave Sunday 27th, with the 25th and 26th spend riding OR
— may arrive on Friday 25th and depart on Monday 28th, riding on Saturday and Sunday 27 and 28 September.
> The cost is £1,800 ahead including dinner, bed and breakfast and horse. Flights are extra.
The Dartmoor Derby is organised by the team behind an existing, established adventure-riding business, Liberty Trails.
I am assisting the event founder, Elaine Prior, with the Dartmoor Derby. Until a year ago I was editor of Horse & Hound magazine, and this event is one of my subsequent projects; Dartmoor sends me rather weak at the knees.
Interested riders, contact Lucy Higginson at Lucy.Higginson@libertytrails.co.uk or input your details here.