Horse Riding on Dartmoor
Riding across Dartmoor's 368 square miles (954 sq km) is hard to beat. You can ride out on the open moor – provided that it’s common land (123kb PDF Help)– trot along woodland trails and bridleways, or follow in the hoofprints of medieval traders along historic byways linking towns and villages.
Dartmoor - where to ride
In addition to the open moor (provided that it is common land (123kb PDF Help)) there are a network of historic rights of way linking towns and villages which riders are entitled to use. They include:
- Bridleways - Dartmoor has a network of over 300km of bridleways.
- Byways Open To All Traffic (BOATS)
- Unsurfaced, unclassified county roads
- Permissive bridleway routes (where access has been agreed with the landowner)
There are many short rides available along networks of quiet country lanes and bridleways around the perimeter of the National Park, whilst the high moorland areas offer more challenging rides. The Ordnance Survey Explorer map of Dartmoor (OL28) shows public rights of way and access land.
Supported by the Dartmoor Sustainable Development Fund, the website Ride Dartmoor (external website, opens in a new window) have also produced a new leaflet about where to ride on Dartmoor. Please note that DNPA is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
Dartmoor - for you and your horseExperiencing Dartmoor from the back of your own horse is a wonderful way to feel at one with the natural world. Dartmoor provides exciting riding, the challenge of the unknown and unexpected and the opportunity to increase that special bond between you and your horse. However, without the supervision of a local guide you have a special responsibility. Remember to “Ride with Moor Care” or open the attached document for further tips on fitnesss, equipment and skills required for riding on Dartmoor.
Dartmoor - for holidays, lessons or trekkingDartmoor has a good choice of riding stables, offering everything from the occasional hack to formal lessons or tailor-made, all-inclusive riding holidays. Beginners can learn in the safety and comfort of an enclosed school; advanced riders can improve their equestrian skills in dressage or show-jumping, sample a new skill like carriage driving, or enjoy the excitement of riding fast across country. And those who simply want to enjoy the spectacular scenery at a steady pace can opt for a day’s trekking.
To find a riding centre and a course that’s just for you contact the Dartmoor Partnership (external site, opens in a new window) or look through the equestrian press. The British Horse Society (external site, opens in a new window) also has a list of approved riding schools.
For riding purposes Dartmoor can be divided into three
The South-East Quarter :Probably the place to start for those new to Dartmoor. It offers the ‘easiest’ riding in terms of gentle slopes, valleys and accessible moorland. The scenery is wonderful, with good accommodation and refreshments available locally.
The South-West Quarter :High moorland and a favourite with experienced riders. Plan your journey around the edge as the centre is blanket bog, which it is essential to avoid.
The Northern Half :Wild and spectacular, but only the most experienced riders should consider “going it alone” in this area, as many parts are inaccessible and the central part is a large bog. The Ministry of Defence also uses this area for training, visit the Dartmoor Ranges website for further information (external website, opens in a new window).
Dartmoor - a real welcomeMany public houses on Dartmoor welcome horse riders, providing tie rails or paddocks, water for your horses, and convenient picnic tables from which you can keep a watchful eye on them. Try not to leave horses unattended – even on a tie rail.
A variety of accommodation for those wishing to bring their horses to Dartmoor for a longer stay is also available. Prices and facilities for the horses do vary, so be sure to ask for information that is relevant to your requirements. There are also riding centres offering more formal livery, with perhaps bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation nearby.
Establishments may ask for proof of up-to-date equine ‘flu vaccinations. Make sure you arrive in good time to enable you and your horse to get accustomed to the facilities and surroundings.
For further information see www.dartmoor.co.uk (external link, opens ina new window), look in the British Horse Society’s book Bed and Breakfast for Horses, or advertisements in the equestrian press.
Dartmoor - taking careDartmoor is full of challenges for the horse rider. You will need constantly to assess the weather and the state of the going, and be prepared to dismount and lead your horse over particularly steep or rough areas.
The weather can change suddenly, especially on high ground, producing extremes of cold, heat and wind. Dense mists can descend very quickly, making it easy to get lost (For this reason a map and compass or GPS device are essential).
River and stream crossings.
Beware of deep water, submerged boulders and flash floods and do not attempt to ford water that is deeper than your horse’s belly. Be ready to quit your stirrups very quickly and slip off should your horse fall. Boggy areas may be on either side of a crossing, so closely follow the previous tracks. Avoid damaging leats (small man-made watercourses that may supply a farm or home).
Blanket and Raised bogs are fragile habitats important for many different wildlife species, and many are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest on Dartmoor. On horseback, give boggy ground a wide berth. Watch out for areas of bright green sphagnum moss or longer areas of vegetation such as deergrass, or harestail cotton grass, which will indicate softer ground. If your horse starts to ‘go in’ retrace your steps.
Military training and firing ranges
At times the northern half of Dartmoor is used for military training and live firing ranges and should be avoided. Visit the Dartmoor Ranges website for further information (external website, opens in a new window).
Riding With Moor CareRide only where you’re allowed.
Be prepared, with the right equipment and clothing including a helmet.
Be considerate of other users.
Avoid riding fast on wet ground as hooves can soon turn fragile moorland into mud.
Be preparedA few simple precautions are advisable. You should:
- Allow plenty of time
- Check the weather forecast
- Leave details of your plans, expected return time and your mobile phone number with someone at home or where you are staying.
- Consider riding with a friend or two rather than on your own.