Mary has been an Ambassador of The Dartmoor Derby (www.dartmoorderby.com), a 50-mile challenge ride for up to 40 horse riders who stay either in local hotels or a luxury, purpose built camp each September, since its inception!
And last week she kindly agreed to accompany a ride run by the Derby’s parent company, Liberty Trails, in a new first for the firm. Liberty Trails began trading in 2013, having received seed funding from the Dartmoor Sustainable Development Fund. It has since generated over £330,000 for the Dartmoor economy, benefitting 25 local businesses.
Eight riders each day rode with Mary and an expert guide, covering 30 miles over two days.
“I ride horses all the time but I very rarely get to cover a big distance and just soak up the scenery, so this invitation from Liberty Trails was a great opportunity,” says Mary.
“Even though I’m from Devon I’d slightly forgotten some of the many wonderful sights you have on Dartmoor — the new born foals of course but also the stallions with their little herds of mares, and skylarks singing overhead. I loved it — I would highly recommend it.”
Guests stayed each night at Bovey Castle hotel, riding right to the front door at the end of their first day in the saddle. For the accompanying riders it was a huge thrill to ride and chat with a rider who for many has been a lifelong sporting heroine.
Liberty Trails’s Elaine Prior added:
“Mary’s enjoyment riding on Dartmoor was palpable; I don’t think she ever stopped smiling, and with fabulous accommodation, delicious mid-ride meals and someone else to wash her horse off it was a true holiday for her. Everyone of us enjoyed every moment.”
MARY KING ON HER DARTMOOR RIDE WITH LIBERTY TRAILS..
“It’s been really very special to ride over the moor I live close to but don’t get to see enough of. It’s such an amazing area but I was still a bit surprised to look around and see how far it extends. We must have covered about 18 miles on the first day, including river crossings, rocky tors, forestry plantations and heathery moors with skylarks singing above. I ride horses all the time but I very rarely get to cover a big distance and just soak up the scenery, so this invitation from Liberty Trails (which runs the Dartmoor Derby, of which I am an Ambassador) to accompany a ride was a great opportunity.
This ride was also a reminder of the side benefits of long off-road rides and that it really is the starting point of ‘cross country riding’, through streams and over ditches, descending steps and cantering up winding tracks.
One young lady’s green horse matured visibly from a keen young thing who cat leapt over steps and flat granite stones into a more thoughtful mount; it’s a great education for a young horse. And two fit young 50-something riders who don’t have their own horses realised by the end that actually they could think about coming hunting here some time — they could do it!
Event horses are so precious these days that I don’t do things like cantering them across moors once they’ve got started training, but it was a pleasure to be on a nice young horse, born and bred on Dartmoor, who was very aware of the terrain. I just left the awkward bits to him. And we had brilliant guides who have hunted almost everywhere over the moor, know many of the farmers — and are really good at gates!
Even though I’m from Devon I’d slightly forgotten some of the many lovely sights you have on Dartmoor — the new born foals of course but also the stallions with their little herds of mares. And the skylarks singing overhead. It was really lovely to end one day’s ride right outside the doors of Bovey Castle, where we were all staying, to head right in to a rather palatial bedroom and let someone else put the horse away — a true holiday! I loved it — and would highly recommend it.”
There are plans to repeat the ride next year. For more details visit www.liberty-trails.com