The horses and ponies offered to riders are a happy lot, appreciate being groomed and are easy to tack up – and don’t mind which hoof you clean first. Due to the varied nature of their work they are willing, alert and bond easily with their riders. And, most important, out on trail they are usually waiting at the gate in the morning eager to start another day in the hills. They range in size from 12hh to 15.2hh but most are between 14hh and 15hh.
General Care . . .
During the Freerein season they live outdoors as a herd and have a simple diet of grass, hay and pony nuts, with a salt lick always available.
Measured quantities of feed are available at the overnight trail stops and riders feed their horses night and morning. During the day they get ample opportunities to graze whilst riders puzzle over their route descriptions.
Shoeing . . .
As the majority of their day is spent in the hills horses tend to grow out of their shoes rather than wear them out.
They enjoy the attentions of a dedicated farrier and are shod all round every five weeks. It is unusual for a horse to lose a shoe on trail. Should this happen we replace the horse.
Annual Routine . . .
When the horses return from their winter homes there is much excitement and galloping about the fields as they remeet old friends. They are then wormed and in turn they visit the Freerein beauty parlour to be tidied up – trim the tails, thorough grooming, etc.
During this time the farrier begins the long job of shoeing them all ready for their first riders to arrive. At the end of the season, before going to winter homes, they are again wormed, trimmed and their shoes removed.
Horse Training Programme . . .
Horse working conditions in the hills are conducive to a long and healthy life, so most Freerein horses have been with us for many years. A new arrival has much to learn. Two out of three will prove unsuitable. First he/she will live with the general herd who, I believe, tell him/her what the job is all about.
Every morning he/she will come in with the working horses and get into the routine of being groomed, having his/her feet picked up and should soon learn table manners so that he/she will eat peacefully from his/her feed bucket alongside the other horses.
He/she will then be ridden with the Guided rides & Onto the Trail Courses by a back up guide. In this way he/she will get used to everything that happens along the trails and at overnight stops. He/she then progresses to Guide Horse.
After many trails, if he or she proves suitable, his (or her) great day comes – he is entrusted to look after his first customer!
Saddles & Equipment . . .
Everything is as straightforward to use as possible. Horses work in simple snaffle bits. Saddles are comfortable and of the endurance type with ties to carry clothing and saddle bags for cameras, lunches etc..
Numnahs & Saddle Bags . . .
Clean numnahs are provided for each trail & changed on the longer trails. Riders taking their own baggage (for Trans Cambrian Trails only) use expedition saddle bags with secondary girths to prevent bag flap at the trot and canter.