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Clydesdale Adventures: Holidaying with the giants

Do you have a passion for draft horses and dynamic trail rides? Then we may have just the right holiday for you, writes MATHILDE GREGOIRE.

Standing at 18hh and weighing over 900 kilograms, Clydesdales may not be the first breed to come to mind when you think of a riding holiday in the UK. But a unique riding center located on a historic 14th century farm in Dartmoor National Park, offers the perfect opportunity to explore the park’s vast moorland in comfort and style.

Gentle giants

Originating in Scotland’s Clyde Valley, Clydesdales have traditionally been used for farming, hauling, and other heavy labor since the early 18th century. Their distinctive statuesque appearance, feathered legs, and thick mane and tail make them easily recognisable. A blend of strength, intelligence, and a wonderful nature makes the Clydesdale the ultimate dreamy draft horse.

Today, these gentle giants are recognised for their versatility. They excel at carriage driving, pleasure riding, and in-hand showing. With growing demand for a versatile leisure horse, Clydesdales are popular for pleasure riding and for riding holidays. Their calm and gentle disposition makes them ideal for beginners as well as more experienced riders, and their wide backs and powerful but slow rhythmic cadence gives a very comfortable ride. Sturdy and sure-footed, Clydesdales are now well-established as a leisure breed and make a wonderful choice for exploring the outdoors.

Holidaying on the moors A fantastic place to experience a Clydesdale riding holiday is with Adventure Clydesdale. Located in the heart of Dartmoor National Park in the picturesque county of Devon (approximately three hours southwest of London), this family owned business offers bucket list adventures for all draft horse and adventure lovers. From one hour hacks to multi-day journeys, Adventure Clydesdale caters for riders of all levels with offerings that combine history and spectacular scenery.

Their team of Big Friendly Giants (BFGs) will take you through rivers and glorious forests, climbing up through rocky terrains and granite tors, and galloping across the open moorland. In this fantastic setting, you will enjoy stunning views and meet some of the local fauna. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, as well as herds of sheep, cows, and those famous free-roaming Dartmoor ponies.

Known for its rugged beauty, Dartmoor National Park ranges through forests, rivers, and wetlands. Its stunning rock formations and wild beauty have over the years been an inspiration for many a poet and novelist. The park is also home to a number of fascinating historic sites, including Bronze Age burial mounds, standing stones, and ancient villages. And while riding your BFG, you’ll enjoy a history lesson on the area and its unique cultural heritage from your knowledgeable guide.

Responsive and calm

Despite their size, these Clydesdales are very fit and forward going, and yet are calm, responsive and well-behaved. The perfect combination! The horses are well cared for and each has quality, well-fitting tack. And if you want to get better acquainted with your BFG, the Adventure Clydesdales team are happy to let you care for your horse before and after each ride, including bringing them in from the field, grooming, and tacking up.

For safety and comfort, rides are in small groups with a maximum of six horses. While riders of all levels are catered for, holiday rides over several days are reserved for the more proficient. And if you’re not a rider at all, don’t despair! You can attend a half or full-day of activities centered around these majestic horses. Hands-on experiences, such as learning natural horsemanship groundwork techniques, long-reining, and harness work, allow non-riders and Clydesdale enthusiasts alike to get to know the breed better.

Where to stay

Adventure Clydesdale is located in the middle of the National Park at Brimpts Farm, which offers several accommodation options including a charming cottage and a delightful converted barn. With 10 bedrooms, families and large groups are well catered for in a warm, rustic setting. Riders joining the multi-day trail leave from Brimpts Farm and enjoy B&B accommodation and a warm welcome at Callisham Farm on the southwest side of the moor, plus an evening meal at a local pub. A warm shower, good meal and a comfy bed make for a perfect finish to the day, as does the chance to relax and swap stories with your fellow adventurers.

Adventure Clydesdale offer daily hacks and holiday rides from May through to September, but are closed over the winter months. Keep in mind that even during spring and summer the weather in Dartmoor can change quickly, so don’t forget your wet weather gear.

Visit Adventure Clydesdale for more details and to book your BFG adventure.