Seeing the New Forest from the back of a horse has to be one of my favourite ways to view the magnificent scenery. There is an added advantage in that one can get much closer to the wildlife. The wild ponies are certainly unaffected by the sight of a ridden horse (except perhaps during the drift season) and the roe and fallow deer are more tolerant of a rider, as opposed to a human on foot.
Seeing the Forest from atop a horse-drawn carriage is another favorite mode of transport of mine. The benefit of being higher up means that you are able to view greater distances and see over the gorse and bracken. However, the clatter of wheels on gravel and the jingle-jangle of harness will probably cause most of the wildlife to bolt due to the unaccustomed noise and, indeed, sight of a horse and carriage. Some of the wild ponies, particularly the younger ones, are most perturbed by seeing what they must surely interpret as a horse being chased by a growling, rattling monster!
When carriage driving recently I was able to watch a pair of European buzzards floating on a breeze that was lifting them up over a valley. As the track I was following crested the top of the valley the pair descended and I was able to look down and view them from above. It was amazing. These fabulous raptors are now the most common and widespread bird of prey in the UK. The plaintive cries of the buzzard is often the sound-track that accompanies me when I’m out on the Forest.
Being able to ride and carriage drive on the Forest, where the tracks offer miles and miles of car-free enjoyment, is such a pleasure. These traditional forms of transport, which are eminently suitable for the versatile New Forest pony, are the best ways to explore and amplify the atmosphere of the Forest.