Looking for the ultimate riding adventure? Head to Dartmoor in the UK, where the horses of Adventure Clydesdale will blow your draft-horse preconceptions right out of the water.
All photos courtesy of Adventure Clydesdale.
Picture a Clydesdale. If you’re like many people, the first thing that comes to mind is the Budweiser hitch of matching bays with chrome, usually accompanied by a Dalmatian or doing something cute in a Superbowl commercial. And it’s true — the breed excels in traditional draft-horse roles from its origin as the workhorse of Scotland.
Travel to Dartmoor in the Devon countryside in England, however, and you’ll find a whole new use for the heavy breed: trail riding. And we don’t mean nose-to-tail tourist trail rides, either. Adventure Clydesdale is aptly named, because mounted on one of these big boys, you’ll be experiencing the countryside firsthand on an adventure you’ll not likely forget.
Tim Ancrum, the founder of Adventure Clydesdale, fell in love with the breed somewhat later in life than many horsemen. A lifelong adventurer, Tim has worked all over the map in a variety of fields, enjoying many outdoor pastimes. Tim found his way to the world of heavy horses about 13 years ago, enchanted with the quiet dispositions but excellent work ethic of the Clydesdale breed.
“They provided everything I needed in a horse,” Tim states. “Their quiet nature translates to a careful approach to the difficult terrain, although where the terrain permits, they are capable of a good turn of speed and are very exciting to ride.” Now based out of Brimpts Farm near Dartmeet in the Dartmoor National Park, Adventure Clydesdale caters to equestrians with the Big Friendly Giants (shortened to BFGs) filling every niche of the program.
Being drafts, of course, the Clydesdales are large and strong but gentle in spirit. “They instill confidence in their riders and allow them to enjoy the beautiful countryside in which they are riding,” Tim describes. He and his “other half” Aileen and his small herd of Clydesdales are flexible: They cater to equestrians at all levels and provide a safe but entertaining experience for all. You won’t find hired-hack horses here, but responsive, quality mounts.
The company offers multiple experiences: two- and three-hour tours of the countryside, a six-hour all-day tour and even multi-day overnight treks. As illustrated both on Adventure Clydesdale’s website and Facebook page, the terrain can be quite challenging and varies from open meadows to rocky hills to woods and streams. The fact that one breed of horse can handle all of these conditions speaks wonders for the versatility of the Clydesdale. The horses seem to thrive especially on the long all-day trips.
Tim and Aileen do not breed their stock, choosing instead to leave that up to professional breeders. They do, however, do most of their own training, generally starting with four-year-olds and employing natural horsemanship techniques to start the horses to best suit their program.
Tim and Aileen, who personally lead every ride themselves, enjoy showcasing the Clydesdale, not only operating the trail riding service but also demonstrating the breed’s ability in the dressage ring — and the race track. For the second year in a row, Adventure Clydesdale’s horses will be heading to Exeter to race over two furlongs, raising money for the local ambulance service.
When not thundering down the track or gracing a dressage arena, however, the horses seem to be quite happy touring the countryside, showing their riders not only the beauty of Dartmoor but the incredible versatility of the Clydesdale breed.