Discover the park on horseback

Horse Riding over the wide open spaces, hills and moors of Northumberland National Park is exhilarating. On these heather and grass covered uplands you can ride for hours without seeing anyone else. Enjoy quiet rides either as part of an organised group or on a self-guided ride.

You can use roads, byways and bridleways on horseback. However, you are not allowed on public footpaths. Many areas are isolated which is part of their charm. But please make sure you are well-prepared.

Safety tips

  • Always tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be out. Try to ride in company, especially when riding in a new area.
  • Carry the relevant OS map for the area. Highlight your route on the map for easy reference.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for your ride – remember that the weather can change quickly in the hills so take warm and waterproof clothes.
  • Check your horse’s tack before you set off; you may find it useful to carry a head collar and/or lead rope – useful not only in an emergency but also to allow your horse to graze while you have your lunch!
  • Carry a hoof pick, personal details, and a fully-charged mobile phone – but be aware that coverage may be limited.

Riding centres and schools

Riding Schools who offer tuition and hacks are:

BHS Approved Yards:

Council Approved:

Equestrian Competition Centres:

Todburn Equestrian Centre near Longhorsley
Alnwick Ford Equestrian Centre near Morpeth

Livery Yards: 

BHS Approved Livery Yard

Non Approved

Advice for riding in the National Park

Find out more

When is the best time to ride?

The best months to ride are between June and September. In May you may disturb ground nesting birds and in some areas lambing will not be over so farmers may be too busy to receive visitors. If you do ride during the lambing season, take great care not to disturb sheep by keeping to the outside of fields and riding quietly and steadily.

Will my horse be able to manage?

A horse from lowland Britain will have to be fit enough to cope with rough ground and steep slopes. Coming downhill is often more of a challenge than going up so you may prefer to get off and lead. Some tracks will be stony and a horse with sensitive feet may need to be shod with pads. The horse must be willing to ford rivers and cross bridges so it is wise to practice before you set off. There will be many gates to open and close. Sometimes you will have to get off and heave so a cooperative, well-trained horse will be a great help.

What are the bridleways like?

Many of the bridleways and traditional riding routes in the National Park are ancient tracks linking one valley with another. The best are green roads or stone tracks across the hills. These are easy to follow although in some places the rider should be prepared for a steep drop on one side.

Some moorland bridleways may be no more than faint sheep tracks across ground that can be soft. Always follow a promoted route or discuss your plans with a local rider who knows which bridleways to avoid. Some are suitable in August and September when they have dried out but are not advisable earlier in the year.

Will they be waymarked?

The standard is very variable so it is important to ride with the relevant Ordnance Survey map and be able to use it. Carry it in a map case slung across your shoulders by a short strap, folded so that it can be read easily. If you have studied the route the night before and highlighted it, you will find it much easier to follow.

You should always carry a compass and whistle. Check your compass when you take a turning to confirm you’re right. It is better to prevent a mistake happening than realise you have gone adrift. Look at the map frequently so you know exactly where you are. Check obvious features such as farms, ruins, woodland boundaries, streams and valleys, sheepfolds and walls. Remember some of the tracks you see on the ground may not be on the map.

What is the main danger I might encounter?

Soft and boggy ground is the most widespread hazard to riders. If you are on a track the problem patches should be clear to see, so look out for areas of dark brown wet peat. Avoid these areas by going carefully round the edge. If your horse is unwilling to go forward, get off and lead him or give him to your companion while you check the ground on foot. Remember if he is adamant, he may know best.

If you are riding on untracked ground (not advisable for visitors to an upland area) the vegetation is a useful guide as to safe and unsafe ground. On grass hills look for straw coloured grass and avoid areas with red tinged grass which grows on boggy ground. Follow sheep tracks through reeds as sheep know the best lines to follow. Avoid bright green mossy areas as they tend to be bottomless. Cotton grass is another good indicator of unsuitable ground.

Should your horse sink in, even a little, get off at once and encourage him to extricate himself. If he is in deep, he may lie still in shock. Loosen the girth if you can, wait and then encourage him again, very strongly if necessary.

Are there other hazards?

  • Low flying jets often fly over remote areas. But it is often the rider rather than the horse that is upset by their sudden noisy appearance.
  • Some horses will shy when a grouse gets up from close to their feet.
  • Very stony ground, rock slabs and loose scree can be difficult to ride over. It is much easier for a horse to keep his feet if you are leading him.
  • Because of the lack of shelter, high winds can make riding very difficult. Poor visibility can make you lose your sense of direction and map reading becomes more difficult. Listen to the weather forecast and, if necessary, take a rest day or keep to roads and tracks in the valleys if low cloud is expected. If you are caught out by deteriorating conditions, it is often better to return the way you came as the horses will be able to sense which way to turn even if you can’t remember.
  • The grouse shooting season lasts from 12 August to 10 December. There is no shooting on Sundays. As most of the heather covered hills and moors are managed for grouse shooting you may come across a shoot. Always behave with courtesy and care and wait while a drive is in progress. The gamekeeper or whoever is in charge will probably indicate when it is safe to move on.

 

Things to remember

  • Never ride alone – a party of three is best in case something goes wrong.
  • Tell someone where you are going each day, preferably in writing.
  • Don’t take your dog with you – this is sheep rearing country and the habitat of many ground-nesting birds.
  • Leave all gates as you find them (or follow instructions on signs).
  • Allow plenty of time to complete your ride.

British Horse Society

This information is courtesy of the British Horse Society adapted from their Advisory Statement on Hill and Moorland Riding. The British Horse Society website has information on riding, welfare, equestrian training, safety, bridleways and access, riding clubs and rescue centres in the UK.