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Catherine Boyd of Stags Tavistock and Okehampton describes the lure of her favourite pocket of the West Country when it comes to setting up home for horse and rider.
Having lived in Devon for most of my life, I can see why so many people are choosing to move here from other parts of the UK. It was a very easy decision for me to return to the region from Hampshire in 2011; there really is everything for the keen equestrian, whether their main interests lie in leisure or competition.
Living on the northern edge of the Dartmoor National Park and based in the Tavistock and Okehampton offices as part of the West Devon Lettings team, I find my experience of equestrian life in the area invaluable when advising clients thinking of moving here with their beloved horses. At West Devon Lettings, we deal with every type of property, from village cottages for those looking for an interim bolthole between selling and buying to landed property for those wishing to keep their horses on their doorstep while looking for a permanent residence.
For those who relocate by do not have their own land and therefore require livery services, there is a wide choice available in the area. I keep my horse at a yard run by a couple who relocated to the area with the help of Stags Okehampton a few years ago and have since developed a thriving business.
For the keen competitor, there are a number of fantastic well-run venues offering all disciplines, both affiliated and unaffiliated. Of particular note are Tall Trees Arena just over the border into Cornwall, The Grange Equestrian Centre near Okehampton and Bicton Arena near Budleigh Salterton, which hosts the South west Regional Dressage Championships, Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival and an extensive calendar of show jumping and British Eventing fixtures as well.
There is also a thriving Riding Club scene, in which I was very involved both as a teenager and into my 20s. You will find several affiliated Riding Clubs in the area and numerous Pony Club branches for those with pony-mad children – I wasn’t lucky enough to partake in this at a young age but trust me, it isn’t always just a phase!
Vets, farriers and physiotherapists for our equine friends are in ready supply as well. When moving areas, it is vital to find services you can trust and it can be a daunting task knowing where to start. It always helps to begin with word of mouth recommendations and when clients enquire I am always happy to provide names and numbers to save that endless online trawl.
My own horse is now retired, but when she was in work I often took her to the moor in the trailer, only 10 minutes away from the yard. Here, we were able to enjoy the most incredible scenery and arguably some of the best off-road riding in the UK. Moorland riding also definitely helped with her fitness for competition. When winter deemed the moor too wet to ride, just the other side of Okehampton are 100 acres of managed woodland tracks at Abbeyford Woods. Currently, I am lucky enough to ride out directly onto the moor as the horse I now exercise and compete is kept in a village only a few minutes from Okehampton, with almost immediate access to Dartmoor and a maze of quiet lanes to explore. Living close to Dartmoor certainly does not mean sacrificing connectivity however. With the A30 dual carriageway connecting Okehampton to Exeter and the M5, this is the perfect location for the commuter.