I havnt been trekking for about 20 years! Back in the day you were chucked on a horse and did walk,trot,canter whatever and beginner riders were a nuisance and told to do what the others did reguardless of your fears about falling off!!
Anyway got to Shilstone and the yard was neat tidy and horses all tacked up ready. I went on my own as going in two's is an artificial concept made up by the tourism office to charge single supplements. I was greeted by a nice young lady who took me and a pile of Swiss tourists - adults and teenagers to the office where we filled in a disclaimer form and level of ability of riding. I was tense,nervous and do have a fear phobia of horses bolting or rearing or spooking.Then the girls each gave us riding hats and boots in our size. We were then told which horse we would be riding by their name. I was riding Dollar a 14hh chunky whitey/grey cob! At this point I was freaking out inside and told the girl sorting my stirrup lengths out that I did NOT want to go any faster than walk. Anyway I was put in a trek group of 3 others-a swiss mother and two swiss kids aged 7 and 14. Their English was ok but not fluent and didn't really understand our trek leaders instructions. Our trek leader was called Bliss and she was great. Did not push us into going into any faster than walk and was watching us all to see that we were safe and not having any problems with horse behaviours. Dollar although I felt safe on him was strong willed and temperamental at times-head shaking and putting head down to drink out of puddles and pulling me about to eat hedgerow when he got the chance. It does get cold on Dartmoor and we got soaked with 3 downpours of rain so by the time we got back to yard I was very stiff, cold and wet and very tired. My legs got stiff being in the saddle and we had to stop twice to for me to stretch the cramp out. I didn't feel we were rushed or bossed about unless it was for our own safety. Shilstone are very good on safety and if your a novice rider they understand the fears people can have of being out of control on a horse. They wont force you into anything that would frighten or scare you whilst riding out and if walk is all you want then walk is all you do. The route over Dartmoor was ok abit bland and well trodden as they do follow the same route for each trek which the horses knew so well but if you like riding then its only a minor glitch. It costs £55 per person for a 2 hour trek which is pricey but it was worth it as the horses overall are well trained and are pretty dozy creatures. A bird flew up out of the grass and Dollar just jumped in his skin and did not spook by doing anything silly to scare me. I was tired by the end of trek and Bliss was very good and took Dollar off me and led him down the hill in hand as the hill is smooth tarmac and steep and horses would slip with shoes on so we all dismounted and walked for horses and human safety. Dollar was pulling me around a lot in hand so Bliss took him off me and I walked with myself as so tired and stiff. All the girls were friendly and professional and looked after all our needs with good grace and motivation. Shilstone is NOT your typical bog standard riding school with lary teenagers chewing gum and being snobby-the standard is much higher and you don't need to worry about being laughed at by piles of school aged kids messing about in the yard and staring at you. Nothing like that at all! Gold star to all the workers at Shilstone - They know their stuff!!!x
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