Horse lovers' Brecon
PUBLISHED: 15:14 22 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:24 20 February 2013
The Brecons and equine sports go together like... a horse and carriage. By Chris Poole
The place for horse play
The Brecons and equine sports go together like a horse and carriage. By Chris Poole
Horses are so much a part of the lifestyle here. The words of Johanna Woolford, horsewoman and retailer of equestrian products in the centre of Brecon. Its entirely natural given the fantastic riding thats available all around us. Wide open spaces, fresh air, access to the Beacons what else could you wish for?
The appeal of riding, as many parents will know, starts at an early age. And a key ingredient in introducing young people to the excitement of riding is, of course, the Pony Club. Liza Watson, until recently District Commissioner of the Brecon and Talybont Hunt Pony Club, points out the diversity of the clubs membership. We have around 80 members, some as young as four and going up to 21 years old or so there arent any hard and fast rules. Its true that riding seems to appeal more to girls than boys but about 20 per cent of our clubs membership now are boys. Liza explains the clubs philosophy: Weve chosen lots of activities rather than specialising so we offer polocrosse, eventing, show-jumping, gymkhana, tetrathlon, mounted games, dressage, riding and road safety and horse and pony care.
Our primary purpose is to teach young people how to ride and how to look after their ponies, adds Liza, but we also introduce ethical concepts such as fair play, citizenship, competition and of losing with good grace. Virtues that many might feel our modern society is at risk of forgetting.
Once their Pony Club days have ended, riders need to move on to other types of club. With demand for facilities for adult riders increasing, Kim Bevan and Jan Sharpless set up the Brecon and Crickhowell Riding Club. Based at a farm in the foothills of the Beacons: We offer lessons, training and guidance to all levels from novices to more experienced competition riders. They can all ride out from here and are immediately in the Beacons theres nothing quite like exploring them on horseback, says Kim.
The idea of horseback exploration has gone one step further in recent years in the Brecon area. There are now several establishments that offer B&B for riders and for their horses. Liza Watson runs one of them and talks of the passion shown by many riders: They often say they dont mind how good the B&B is for themselves but want reassurance that accommodation for their horses is of a high standard.
The Three Rivers Ride (the Lugg, Wye and Usk), developed by the British Horse Society, starts in Worcestershire, entering Herefordshire to the north of Bromyard. The Brecon Beacons section covers about 35 miles. Coming from the north, and as you approach Brecon, you skirt the picturesque Llangorse lake before arriving at the National Park Visitors Centre at Libanus, to the west of Brecon. All along this route riders will find echoes of the ancient style of hospitality for travellers with B&Bs offering comfortable accommodation for both horse and rider.
The appeal of riding to youngsters is recognised too by Christ College in Brecon the prestigious boarding school with a distinguished history stretching back to 1541 when it was founded by Henry VIII. Steve Maggs, the schools Development Director, explains: We now have an equestrian team that has already started to win awards. One pupil, Lauren Williams, for example has represented Wales at polocrosse. There are facilities for riding all around us, including the amazing climbing and riding centre at Llangorse and we are pleased to be supporting the Glanusk event this summer.
Steve is referring to the Glanusk Estate between Brecon and Crickhowell. Many of the regions equestrian interests will come together here from 1 to 4 July when the estate hosts the Glanusk International Horse Trials.
This is one of the more important sporting events in the Welsh calendar. Held in the past at Chepstow, this three-day event incorporates a range of competitions.
Glanusk has been encouraged and supported to provide first class facilities to an international standard. There have been equestrian links here on the estate since the 1950s, says estate owner Harry Legge-Bourke, now its time to build on those early links and create something very special.
The facilities, adding to a cross-country course built by the Brecon and Talybont Hunt Pony Club, have been recognised as the right standard for Olympic teams to prepare and train for 2012. Glanusk has also been selected as the home of the British Junior Championships.
Course designer Eric Winter is delighted at Glanusks approach to developing the estate: Harry gave me a blank canvas on which to work and weve come up with a course that meets the right standards embracing the all important safety requirements.
Lizzel Winter, Erics wife and National Coach to the British junior team, explains: Glanusk will incorporate the British Junior Championships. Being selected to compete here is very important to our young riders and could lead to selection for Team GB at the European Championships.
The significance of riding in the Brecon area is echoed by the towns tourism office (www.visitbrecon.com) which has details of some of the riding possibilities in the region notably the well established Cantref Riding Centre and the multi-activity centre based near the picturesque Llangorse lake a little to the east of the town. For her part, Jo Woolford is preparing to move her shop Canter-Happy to bigger premises at the George Hotel in Brecon town centre.
Visitors to Brecon might choose to go in search of some rather special horses. Not far from this pretty, historic town there are herds of wild Welsh mountain ponies grazing in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Not as well-known as their New Forest cousins, these tough animals seem to thrive in the harsh conditions found in the Welsh mountains.
A reminder, if one were needed, of the inextricable link between Brecon, its surroundings and our equine companions.