Rosemary Granger sends in a lovely description of the joys of riding a horse out on the lanes, bridleways and byways of these valleys:
“At this time of year, as I struggle into waterproof trousers, warm coat, gloves, scarf and hat and go out into the dark cold winter mornings to feed horses, break ice on water buckets, refill buckets, change rugs on horse, put horse out, muck out stable, wade through mud to put out hay nets for the day, make up feeds for late afternoon when I will reverse this whole process, I wonder WHY DO I DO THIS every day for about 6 months of the year?
However, all I have to do is recall riding my lovely mare across the fells on a warm summer’s day, heavenly views with not a person or a dwelling in sight, the sound of skylarks overhead and it really is all worth while! There is nothing like it and there are miles and miles of bridleways to explore. It is the perfect opportunity to have some time to yourself to mull over tricky problems, or to relax, or to ride with friends and catch up on their news.
The horses you will see as you drive or walk around the Allendale area are a varied bunch who come in all shapes and sizes. With their devoted owners, they engage in many different horsey disciplines at different levels. Some of them are living out happy retirement after years of fun and games. Some people are very happy to hack around the lanes and bridleways, often finishing with a drink at the pub, whilst others may be involved in show jumping, dressage, eventing or my sport, which is competitive endurance riding.
Those who are not lucky enough to have their own horse, take advantage of riding with the Sinderhope Pony Trekking Centre where you can enjoy riding on the fells, lessons or ‘pony days’ and more.
For many, the local highlight of the year is to participate in the Allendale Show where there are showing classes, in hand and ridden, for native breeds, for coloured horses and many more, rounded off with show jumping classes. Many horse owners do not have their own horse transport so it is wonderful to have a show on our doorstep that many of us can ride to.
Whatever you do with your horse, one thing is certain – you will at some point experience the kindness and generosity of spirit that runs throughout the horsey community. In my experience, whatever your chosen discipline, people are always keen to support you and encourage you, especially if you are not feeling very confident, and they are genuinely delighted for you in everything you achieve. If you need help, whether it is to borrow some tack or to help you catch your horses who have managed to escape and have set off on a little adventure, your horsey comrades will be on hand to help out. They will help you find hay supplies; recommend experienced trainers if you want to develop your skills; or if the worst happens and you have an accident, they will be right there to help you and your horse. They will walk miles with you to get your horse home, or pick up your horse and take it home, after an accident or a vehicle breakdown.
Sadly this piece would not be complete without mentioning one of the downsides of horse riding in this community – vehicle drivers who don’t slow down when approaching horses on the road.
Every rider who uses the roads will, on a very regular basis, experience drivers who ignore the rule in the Highway Code which instructs us to pass horses wide and slowly and to heed a rider’s request to slow down or stop. In the last year 87 horses and four people have been killed whilst riding on the roads in the UK. When driving we should treat all horses as a potential hazard; they can be unpredictable, despite the efforts of their rider. The risks not only extend to the horse and rider but to drivers too. A horse may spook at something and leap across the road – if you are driving too close, you could find half a ton of horse crashing through your windscreen.
It would be remiss of me therefore, not to conclude this piece without asking all drivers to help keep us all safe on the road and to say a huge thank you to all the drivers who pass wide and slowly so that riding in the Allen Valleys continues to be a joy!”
Thanks Rosemary, and your photos are a joy as well! We all see the horses and their devoted riders on the roads, and when we pass wide and slowly we hope we’re helping to keep everyone safe. I’m so glad to have this first-person report on the joys of horse riding, and an insight into the horsey community, in the diary!