Here you will find answers to specific questions you might have about riding the South Downs Way on horse back.
If you have any questions which are not answered here, please have a look at the general FAQ page here.
How long will it take to ride the South Downs Way by horse?
Horse riders should plan their journey on the South Downs Way considering both their fitness and that of their horse. The Trail surface can be hard going on a horse so we would suggest that riders will be able to cover a similar distance per day as that of a fast walker.
Approximately 16 miles a day will probably mean about 7 hours per day in the saddle and the Trail completed in 6-7 days, but it has been completed in less. You know your horse better than us so don't risk the health of your horse.
How easy is it to ride the South Downs Way on horse back?
Completing the South Downs Way on horseback in one go isn't easy but is achievable and is an enjoyable experience but should only be taken on by confident and experienced riders.
- You should be able to mount and dismount without assistance
- You need to be confident in opening bridle gates whilst on horseback
- You need to be able to cross roads and bridges (over both water and roads) either on horseback or leading your horse
Novice riders should consider tackling the Trail in stages.
Where are the seperate Bridleway and Footpath routes?
At various points on the Trail the route divides directing walkers one way (Footpath route) and cyclists and horse riders another way (Bridleway route). Each split of the Trail is signposted on the ground and is marked in both Ordnance Survey and Harvey Maps. For ease of use, the South Downs Way like all rights of way in England is marked using the coloured way marking system which lets you know where you are allowed to go. For details of this please click here.
There are three main points where this occurs, from West to East they are:
Between the M3 at Winchester and Chilcomb, horse riders and cyclists are directed to follow the edge of the A31 (on a roadside path) and then down Kings Lane to Chilcomb.
In the Meon Valley near Exton, horse riders and cyclists are diverted to the quiet roads around the village of Exton rather than the narrow footpath. A map of this section is available here
The main separation of routes is between Alfriston and Eastbourne. Horse riders and cyclists must take the more northerly route of the South Downs Way via Jevington, while walkers can take a southerly route over the Seven Sisters.Please be aware that walkers can also take the Bridleway routes if they prefer, so do not be surprised to see them.
Do I have to start or finish in Winchester City centre with my horse?
No, Winchester City centre is not a great place to try and box or de-box a horse, so unless you really want to take on city traffic we would advise starting or finishing the Trail at the western end in Chilcomb village. This avoids the city centre and the M3 bridge crossing.
Please note that Chilcomb is a small village and is best suited as a setting down and picking up point only. Please park considerately in the village.
What types of path can I ride on?
The South Downs Way, like the rest of the Public Rights of Way network, is made up of paths of different types. The designation of these paths define who has legal right to use them. They are often waymarked by colour.
- Footpath [Yellow] Walkers only
- Bridleway [Blue] Walkers, Horse Riders and Cyclists
- Restricted Byway [Plum] Walkers, Horse Riders, Cyclists and Carriage Drivers
- Byway [Red] Walkers, Horse Riders, Cyclists, Carriage Drivers and Motorised vehicles.
Please note that some Byways and Restricted Byways have additional Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO) in place on them to try and combat illegal use or abuse which can remove the rights of carriage drivers or motorised vehicles. These TROs are managed and regulated by the local Highway Authorities (County Councils) who you will need to contact for further information.
Is there anywhere I can stay along the South Downs Way with my horse?
Yes, there are a number of accommodation providers who also provide stabling or paddock facilities for your horse.All details about accommodation with stable/paddock provision can be found either on the accommodation pages of this website or in the printed SDW Accommodation Guide available from the South Downs Way National Trail Office priced £5.50: more information here.
Are there any circular riding routes?
Visit the Walks and Rides pages of the South Downs Way website for a selection of circular routes in the South Downs.
Please note that not all the routes are sutiable for horse riders and some are for walkers only.
Who has right of way?
On Bridleways, cyclists should give way to walkers and horse riders. Cyclists should know to pass slowly and with a friendly shout or ring of a bell if they approach from behind, but beaware that on a windy day on the Downs it can be difficult to hear them approach.
Are there any organised horse riding holidays/packages?
Unfortunately we do not know of any horse riding holidays or packages in the South Downs. There are, however, a number of endurance horse riding events which happen annualy in the South Downs run by Endurance GB, more details can be found on their website: www.endurancegb.co.uk
Is there anywhere I can water my horse on the Trail?
There are a number of drinking water taps and troughs on the Trail but not all taps have troughs so it is worth taking a collapsible bucket or equivalent to fill up for your horse if the weather is going to be warm. Water points can be viewed on our interactive map here or downloaded as a list here.