There are few things finer than exploring the countryside on horseback and the Yorkshire Dales National Park offers ample opportunities for riders of all abilities and experience.
By riding quietly, you will perhaps see more wildlife than by any other means, because animals and birds will often not view horses as a threat, and the person on top may not be noticed at all! There are also plenty of areas for the horses to stretch their legs so you can enjoy an exhilarating canter through the open moorland.
There is a good network of over 800 kilometers (500 miles) of bridleways, byways and green lanes within the Yorkshire Dales National Park which can often be connected into circuits of varying length by short rides along quiet country roads.
Many trails have a history as well as being great fun to ride, being a mixture of Roman roads, monastic highways, mining tracks and drovers roads. In addition to this there is the new Pennine Bridleway running through the National Park, from near Long Preston to Hell Gill and beyond to near Kirkby Stephen. This is part of an exciting new National Trail — the first to be specifically designed for horse riders, cyclists and walkers. As part of the trail, the Settle Loop offers a great day's circular ride on bridleways and byways varying between walled lanes and open moorland.
As an experienced rider with access to your own horse, you can plan your own route using a suitable map or follow routes that other horse riders have planned and ridden. The Northern Dales Rider project have produced a series of circular horse rides take in some of the most spectacular scenery of the northern Yorkshire Dales covering Swaledale, Arkengarthdale, Lower Wensleydale & Coverdale. The routes cater for a range of abilities and use mainly bridleways, green lanes and some unclassified county roads.
The bespoke guide maps are specifically designed for horse rider use and provide an easy-to-follow route from a start point which can be reached by horsebox or trailer. A PDF guide map for each can be downloaded for printing at www.northyorks.gov.uk/rides.
If you don’t have access to your own horse, are less experienced, or simply want a guided ride, where you don’t have to navigate, there are several excellent riding stables within the National Park. These are able to offer lessons, treks or even more adventurous multi day excursions stopping in welcoming accommodation throughout the Yorkshire Dales.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is always striving to improve the rights of way network, and in particular we have been replacing gate catches with ones that are easy to open from horseback. If, however, you discover any particular problems while you are out and about, please report these to the local ranger.
When coming out to enjoy the Yorkshire Dales on horseback please follow the guidelines below to make sure you have a safe and responsible visit.
If transporting your horse to the area, ensure that you plan a suitable place to leave the vehicle during your stay. Dedicated facilities are available for horse boxes at several places along the Pennine Bridleway, and there are many other suitable places if you plan ahead.
If you are planning to venture into the rougher terrain, ensure your horse is fit enough to cope with the gradients, is well behaved in the wide open spaces, and is happy with the varying conditions underfoot which may be encountered.
Always equip yourself suitably for the ride. The weather can change quickly so take suitable clothing, including waterproofs, with you and sun protection for you and your horse. A human and equine first aid kit is essential as is a hoof pick, and it may be useful to take along a headcollar, which can be worn under the bridle, and a lead rope.
Make sure that you inform someone of exactly where you will be going and what time you expect to be back or reach your destination. If your plans change, let that person know so that they do not worry. Ideally, ride out in a group of three or more, so that if an accident happens someone can go for help, but no-one is left alone at the scene of the problem.
Ride carefully through livestock because, as you will know, spooked animals can harm themselves, particularly if they are pregnant or have young at foot.
Follow the Highway Code.
More advice is available from the British Horse Society website.