Britain — seeing Wales on Horseback

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The Trans Wales Trail ride is a unique way to see seldom-explored parts of wild, wonderful Wales. On a 6-day, 7-night equestrian adventure, guests will cross almost the entire width and length of Wales, from the English border to the Irish Sea, on a sturdy native Welsh cob.

Preparations

Our journey began in July ’04 at Cwmfforest Riding Centre, owned by Mike and Maria Turner, in Talgarth, Wales. Shortly after arriving, we met the farm’s newest members, six spring foals.

At dinner, served family style, we discussed our upcoming trip and the expected weather for the week. Wales is known for frequent rain, and rain was predicted.

The next morning, before breakfast, we were assigned our horses. They were chosen for each of us according to our size and riding ability. After breakfast we groomed our horses, a ritual we would perform each morning. This allowed us to check them for any injuries and loose shoes and also was an opportunity to bond with them.

Then it was time to tack up the horses, a new experience for me. (We don’t do this at my riding school.) The others helped me with the saddle and bridle.

Testing our skills

On our first day we rode an 8-mile circuit around the farm. This allowed Mike Davies, our guide, to assess our riding abilities and decide if we were strong enough to go on the Trans Wales Trail. I was the least experienced, with just three years of lessons.

The horses followed closely together as we rode into the rolling countryside and through deep bracken. Mike put us through a walk, a trot and finally a canter.

We stopped for lunch in a pub before riding to the Black Mountains. It was a glorious day, sunny and warm.

When we returned to the barn, we began the evening ritual: cleaning the tack and grooming and feeding the horses. All the horses had to be fed at the same time; otherwise, the horses without food would go crazy. When we were finished, Maria had tea and cookies waiting for us.

First day out

Mike decided that we were all good enough to continue. However, earlier in the day I learned the disadvantage of full chaps: when my horse shied, the bottom half of my body followed him, but the top half didn’t. (Pain!) After that experience, I was unsure about my abilities. I was comfortable with all gaits in the arena, but it did not compare to riding outdoors over varying terrain.

Monday, we began the Trans Wales Trail. We would ride 14 to 24 miles per day, starting in the southeast of Wales and eventually ending at the Irish Sea, for a total of over 110 miles. We would cross a total of four mountain ranges and cover areas of moorland and bogs as well as open grasslands.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch each day. Because we would be in different locations over three nights, we each packed a small bag with necessities only, leaving everything else at the house. (Our bags were transported for us.)

Initially, I was unsure about going because of my back injury. However, I would miss the next four days if I couldn’t go because they couldn’t transport my horse, George, if I didn’t ride. So I took a large dose of ibuprofen, but I still had some difficulty sitting back in the saddle, making me a little unstable. Mike and the other riders kept a close eye on me.

The countryside was beautiful. We carried oilskin coats tied to our saddles — a charm to ward off rain. So far, it had worked, as it was another beautiful day. After lunch we reached open moorlands, where we broke into several long canters.

When George started to gallop, I was both terrified because of my back pain and exhilarated. Seeing the ground and countryside race by so quickly was exciting.

We then rode to our first hotel, Caer Beris Manor Country Hotel, a stunning converted manor house, where Mike T. met us with the horses’ gear.

The terrain

The next day at breakfast we discovered that one person was ill and too weak to ride. Arrangements were hastily made to bring someone from the farm to ride her horse while she went to our next hotel (Brynafon Country House Hotel).

Throughout our trip, we could see and hear sheep moving around us and see native kites wheeling overhead. We rode up and down several steep hills, one of which was too steep for the horses to carry us up and so we had to walk them.

We often rode on the road for short periods, riding in double file to mimic a vehicle. As we got higher into the mountains it was windier and cooler. At an area called Windy Corner, the wind was so strong it almost lifted me from the saddle!

We also rode through a large area of deep bog, keeping the horses moving forward in single file so they wouldn’t sink. The horses moved steadily until the largest horse balked and stopped. Mike dismounted quickly to help, getting the horse moving again.

Nearing the end

Thursday was our longest ride, 24 miles. It was raining steadily and quite cool, and we were grateful for the oilskin coats. We rode through the forest, the bracken and into the mountains again on our way to the beach near Aberystwyth and the end of the Trans Wales Trail.

When we reached the beach, we were surprised how afraid the horses were of the waves. We steadied our horses and got ready for a gallop. The horses leapt forward and we raced away down the beach.

After caring for the horses and tack back at the farm, we loaded them into the waiting vans for the 90-mile ride “home.”

Our final riding day was spent exploring the area surrounding the Cwmfforest farm.

The next day we said good-bye. It had been a terrific trip. I had been pushed to the limits of my abilities but enjoyed the challenge immensely. I only wish I could have taken George home with me.

The details

The Trans Wales Trail is the longest and most challenging ride offered by Cwmfforest Riding Centre. Riders must be experienced with all gaits, be very fit and be able to ride comfortably for five to seven hours a day. The group is limited to 10 riders.

The Trans Wales trip is offered every other week from mid-May to mid-October. It can be booked directly through Cwmfforest Farm (phone +44 1874 711398 or visit www.transwales.demon.co.uk) or through Hidden Trails (Vancouver, B.C.; phone 888/9-TRAILS or visit www.hiddentrails.com).

Prices through Hidden Trails in 2004 ranged from £800 (near $1,500) in the low season to £900 (near $1,690) in high season. Single rooms, if available, cost an additional £20 ($38) per night. All lodging and meals are included. Beverages for away meals are extra.

An optional pickup/return from Heathrow is offered for £100 — highly recommended since the train requires two or three changes.

Cwmfforest Riding Centre offers additional rides of various lengths (as short as a half day) and for all skill levels. All can be booked directly. Their multiday rides can also be booked through Hidden Trails.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

The Trans Wales Trail ride is a unique way to see seldom-explored parts of wild, wonderful Wales. On a 6-day, 7-night equestrian adventure, guests will cross almost the entire width and length of Wales, from the English border to the Irish Sea, on a sturdy native Welsh cob.

Preparations

Our journey began in July ’04 at Cwmfforest Riding Centre, owned by Mike and Maria Turner, in Talgarth, Wales. Shortly after arriving, we met the farm’s newest members, six spring foals.

At dinner, served family style, we discussed our upcoming trip and the expected weather for the week. Wales is known for frequent rain, and rain was predicted.

The next morning, before breakfast, we were assigned our horses. They were chosen for each of us according to our size and riding ability. After breakfast we groomed our horses, a ritual we would perform each morning. This allowed us to check them for any injuries and loose shoes and also was an opportunity to bond with them.

Then it was time to tack up the horses, a new experience for me. (We don’t do this at my riding school.) The others helped me with the saddle and bridle.

Testing our skills

On our first day we rode an 8-mile circuit around the farm. This allowed Mike Davies, our guide, to assess our riding abilities and decide if we were strong enough to go on the Trans Wales Trail. I was the least experienced, with just three years of lessons.

The horses followed closely together as we rode into the rolling countryside and through deep bracken. Mike put us through a walk, a trot and finally a canter.

We stopped for lunch in a pub before riding to the Black Mountains. It was a glorious day, sunny and warm.

When we returned to the barn, we began the evening ritual: cleaning the tack and grooming and feeding the horses. All the horses had to be fed at the same time; otherwise, the horses without food would go crazy. When we were finished, Maria had tea and cookies waiting for us.

First day out

Mike decided that we were all good enough to continue. However, earlier in the day I learned the disadvantage of full chaps: when my horse shied, the bottom half of my body followed him, but the top half didn’t. (Pain!) After that experience, I was unsure about my abilities. I was comfortable with all gaits in the arena, but it did not compare to riding outdoors over varying terrain.

Monday, we began the Trans Wales Trail. We would ride 14 to 24 miles per day, starting in the southeast of Wales and eventually ending at the Irish Sea, for a total of over 110 miles. We would cross a total of four mountain ranges and cover areas of moorland and bogs as well as open grasslands.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch each day. Because we would be in different locations over three nights, we each packed a small bag with necessities only, leaving everything else at the house. (Our bags were transported for us.)

Initially, I was unsure about going because of my back injury. However, I would miss the next four days if I couldn’t go because they couldn’t transport my horse, George, if I didn’t ride. So I took a large dose of ibuprofen, but I still had some difficulty sitting back in the saddle, making me a little unstable. Mike and the other riders kept a close eye on me.

The countryside was beautiful. We carried oilskin coats tied to our saddles — a charm to ward off rain. So far, it had worked, as it was another beautiful day. After lunch we reached open moorlands, where we broke into several long canters.

When George started to gallop, I was both terrified because of my back pain and exhilarated. Seeing the ground and countryside race by so quickly was exciting.

We then rode to our first hotel, Caer Beris Manor Country Hotel, a stunning converted manor house, where Mike T. met us with the horses’ gear.

The terrain

The next day at breakfast we discovered that one person was ill and too weak to ride. Arrangements were hastily made to bring someone from the farm to ride her horse while she went to our next hotel (Brynafon Country House Hotel).

Throughout our trip, we could see and hear sheep moving around us and see native kites wheeling overhead. We rode up and down several steep hills, one of which was too steep for the horses to carry us up and so we had to walk them.

We often rode on the road for short periods, riding in double file to mimic a vehicle. As we got higher into the mountains it was windier and cooler. At an area called Windy Corner, the wind was so strong it almost lifted me from the saddle!

We also rode through a large area of deep bog, keeping the horses moving forward in single file so they wouldn’t sink. The horses moved steadily until the largest horse balked and stopped. Mike dismounted quickly to help, getting the horse moving again.

Nearing the end

Thursday was our longest ride, 24 miles. It was raining steadily and quite cool, and we were grateful for the oilskin coats. We rode through the forest, the bracken and into the mountains again on our way to the beach near Aberystwyth and the end of the Trans Wales Trail.

When we reached the beach, we were surprised how afraid the horses were of the waves. We steadied our horses and got ready for a gallop. The horses leapt forward and we raced away down the beach.

After caring for the horses and tack back at the farm, we loaded them into the waiting vans for the 90-mile ride “home.”

Our final riding day was spent exploring the area surrounding the Cwmfforest farm.

The next day we said good-bye. It had been a terrific trip. I had been pushed to the limits of my abilities but enjoyed the challenge immensely. I only wish I could have taken George home with me.

The details

The Trans Wales Trail is the longest and most challenging ride offered by Cwmfforest Riding Centre. Riders must be experienced with all gaits, be very fit and be able to ride comfortably for five to seven hours a day. The group is limited to 10 riders.

The Trans Wales trip is offered every other week from mid-May to mid-October. It can be booked directly through Cwmfforest Farm (phone +44 1874 711398 or visit www.transwales.demon.co.uk) or through Hidden Trails (Vancouver, B.C.; phone 888/9-TRAILS or visit www.hiddentrails.com).

Prices through Hidden Trails in 2004 ranged from £800 (near $1,500) in the low season to £900 (near $1,690) in high season. Single rooms, if available, cost an additional £20 ($38) per night. All lodging and meals are included. Beverages for away meals are extra.

An optional pickup/return from Heathrow is offered for £100 — highly recommended since the train requires two or three changes.

Cwmfforest Riding Centre offers additional rides of various lengths (as short as a half day) and for all skill levels. All can be booked directly. Their multiday rides can also be booked through Hidden Trails.