The Pennine Bridleway specially created for horse riders gives Horses for Health Relay riders "big skies" all the way along their 50 mile route

A bridleway through the Yorkshire Dales National Park, created for long-distance riding, hosted a leg of the Great Horses For Health Relay.

The riders from left, Lucy Pickford, Hilary Fawcett, Marie Wray and Alison Muir
The riders from left, Lucy Pickford, Hilary Fawcett, Marie Wray and Alison Muir

Alison Muir and Lucy Pickford, from Stonetrail Riding Centre near Ravenstonedale, were joined by farmer Hilary Fawcett, from South Stainmore, and Marie Wray, from Teesdale, for the ride along the 205-mile Pennine Bridleway which stretches from Cumbria to the Peak District.

The group completed 50 miles in three days as part of the Cumbria leg of the charity event which is raising funds for equestrian charities as well as highlighting the mental health benefits horses can bring.

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Speaking at Yore House Farm in Upper Wensleydale at the start of the 18-mile journey to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Alison Muir, riding cob Sam, said: “When the Horses for Health route was being planned it was obvious the Pennine Bridleway would be a superb way to carry the baton along.”

Alison described the Pennine Bridleway, opened in 2012 by British Horse Society president and actor Martin Clunes as a “tremendous route”. “I’ve taken hundreds of riders up and down the Pennine Bridleway. It is a tremendous route, so it’s fantastic that Horses for Health are using it, because it will help to promote it much more.

“It’s mostly off-road, the tracks are in really good nick, and the scenery is outstanding – it’s big skies all the way. You come down into the valleys simply to reach a new valley and then you are up in the hills again.”

Member champion for recreation management at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Nick Cotton, said he was delighted the route was included in the UK-wide relay.

“Horses for Health is using the Pennine Bridleway in just the way it was designed to be used,” he said.

“The Pennine Bridleway is a completely separate trail to the Pennine Way and while it’s a great route for walkers and cyclists, it was designed specifically for horse riders and that point is sometimes missed.

“Participants are riding a length of the trail over a number of days and making the most of the hospitality on offer along the way. It is satisfying to see the trail supporting a charity and enabling a fundraising event.

“It is a fantastic asset but not well known and it is good that Alison and her friends are helping to put the word out about it.”

The Great Horses for Health Relay started in May with South Yorkshire Police taking the baton at Wentworth Woodhouse estate. As well as raising funds for equestrian charities including Leeds-based Hope Pastures, the event is highlighting the mental health benefits of being around horses.

“They are very friendly creatures who understand you and want social contact with people but most of all horses want you to be kind and they want you to love them,” Alison said.

“So if someone’s got a bit of love to give, but maybe they can’t give to somebody else, they should give it to a horse – and they’ll get bounce back.”