As the weather cools and the leaves turn, now’s a great time of year to get out and about with your horse.
Here’s how to make the most of the next few weeks and enjoy every second in the saddle
1. Head into the woods
With the leaves a glorious mix of reds, oranges and yellows, autumn is the best time of year to explore the UK’s many woodland bridleways, with hundreds of miles of tracks open to riders, and most forest centres offering horsebox parking and well-signed routes.
Alternatively, search by national park. Did you know, for example, that the North York Moors is home to 500 miles of often tree-lined bridleways, and the Exmoor National Park 300?
Time to get your horsebox hired…
2. Enjoy the stubble
Nothing says ‘autumn’ quite like the sight of a golden-tinged stubble field stretching away into the distance.
In most areas of the UK, stubble season lasts well into November before fields are ploughed, so now’s the perfect time to make friends with your local farmer.
Most land owners are happy to let riders enjoy a canter through the stubble, provided they seek permission first and are respectful of verges and ditches.
But do always ask, as some fields may appear to be stubble when they have in fact been drilled with next year’s crop.
3. Try a hunter trial
Hands up who remembers the good old-fashioned hunter trial, circa the 1980s, where you donned your best ‘colours’ and hat with a chin cup and cantered over ditches, rails, logs and fallen trees?
These cross-country-only events are still going strong, usually held on farmland and often run by local hunts over the autumn season.
Often the rule is the earlier the class, the lower the fences – though check the schedule – and you can team up with a friend for the pairs event.
They tend to be good fun, low-key competitions, and great practise for team chasing or drag hunting.
4. Hit the trail
While we’re not suggesting you trek its full 205-mile length, with the kids back at school and tourist numbers on the wane after summer, there’s no better time to ride a chunk of the much-loved Pennine Bridleway.
Following ancient packhorse routes, drovers’ trails and new stretches of bridleway, a day’s picnic ride is more than achievable, and the bridleway even has its own Trail Manager who’ll help you plan your trip.
5. Go the distance…
If you enjoy hacking out, but need a focus, competitive long distance riding is a great autumn challenge, with rides starting at just 8km (5 miles).
Endurance GB offers a ‘try before you buy’ deal, where you can enter a novice ride of anything up to 40km (25 miles) to see if you like it without having to become a member.