Horsing Around in the Peak District

It wasn’t meant to be. It surely wasn’t. He looked at me and cocked his head. I looked him back in the eye and frowned. I’m pretty sure he was unconvinced about me as I was about him.

I took a step forward to try and break the spectre of tension which hung in the air between us. He bucked his head and shuffled back uncertainly.

Peak District rocks

“He’s always like that. Plays hard to get. You’re gonna have to make the first move.”

The owner of Wonk was a local farmer in his early 60s. He’d come as a recommendation from the landlady of the typical cottage we’d found in an extremely pretty village on the outskirts of Buxton.

Wonk was a thoroughbred horse, taller than I by a good foot. He was a rich chestnut colour with a main which frankly looked freshly styled that morning and which would have turned the eye of Jon Bon Jovi in his pomp. I was intimidated in more ways than one.

“So, what am I supposed to do? Just grab that rein and tell him what’s what?” I was hoping my inquisitive earnestness cloaked any nervousness I felt.

“Aye, do just that but if you’re nervous he’ll know immediately. So don’t be.”


I bit my lower lip and struck forward for the reins. I was surprised when Wonk didn’t buck or even move a muscle. He just eyed me silently.

“Why’s he called Wonk?”

As soon as I’d asked that I realised I’d made a dreadful mistake.

“Walks funny sometimes. Goes a bit sideways. Wonky, y’know. He used to be called Rufus but we renamed him.”

“Sideways?!” I started to imagine horses in some God-awful line-dancing show.

“Aye. You’ll see what I mean. You’ll be all right though. Just make sure he follows me.”

I hadn’t ridden for a couple of years since a fateful adventure (if you can call it that) in the Cuban sierra near Cienfuegos when, a good few mojitos to the wind, I’d found myself roped into a horse trek over the local mountainside to an apparently hidden waterfall the following day. Needless to say, said ‘waterfall’ turned out only to be a demi-trickle from a pipe in a forest and the journey there pretty horrific under a vicious sun and with a guide of whom we could not understand a single word (not through our lack of Spanish mind you, but instead because he had only one lone tooth protruding from the front of his mouth).

Peak District

John, our guide back here in the rather more gentle weather of the Peak District, took us out after a light lunch (advisable!) and on to a section of the Longdendale Trail. In the Peak District, there are many trails suitable for horse trekking including the Pennine Bridleway which covers some 431 kilometres. If your buttocks could take that sort of distance then hats off to you, but my soft supple things (stop sniggering) certainly could not and I am grateful for the reduced route that John has planned for us.

John takes Wonk and I over stunning moorland and fells, through farms and woodland and with cracking views over a reservoir. The turf is nice and supple and Wonk seems to be enjoying himself. Though the woodland section gets a little hairy as Wonk stays true to his slightly tilting nature and I lose a few gazillion brain cells to a couple of blows from hanging branches, generally we get on fine. In fact, we get on better than fine - we get on really rather well indeed and my mind is cast back to my childhood years when I first learned to ride a couple of hundred miles north of where we are now.

I resolve to take up the reins again, and soon.