April 11th 2013

Secrets of "the Rubbing House" revealed, and a great era of racing history explored on The Wayfarers' Yorkshire Walk
If you love horses then you will be delighted by our visit to Middleham on the Wayfarers’ Yorkshire Walk. As you enter the town, horses appear from every direction out of racing stables tucked behind rows of ordinary houses. We pause here for lunch and the chance to sample the distinctive local ale, and we often see strings of magnificent racehorses walking up the road to the moors or returning from the high gallops after training.
The art of training thoroughbreds has flourished for more than 200 years at Middleham. Ancient documents reveal that Isaac Cape was one of the first professional trainers to set up in the town. He operated from Tupgill Stables in the era when the English thoroughbred racehorse was still being perfected as a breed.
In 1739 a racecourse was laid out on the High Moor at Limekiln Hill and races were held there until 1873. The modern gallops you can see today follow its antique contours. Nearby is a derelict stone barn, the only remaining evidence of one of the great eras in racing history. This is the Rubbing House, where in the 19th century horses were rubbed down between workouts or between raceday heats, part of a training practice known as ‘the Yorkshire Sweats’.
Horses would be well wrapped in blankets and galloped over long distances, before returning to the Rubbing House to have sweat removed and blankets replaced. In the 18th century horses ran several heats in one day and the Rubbing House was used between the heats, when sweat was scraped off and the horses kept warm until the next heat. The most famous of all the Middleham classic winners trained using the Rubbing House was The Flying Dutchman, who won both the Derby and St Leger in 1849 and the Ascot Gold Cup the following year.
The Yorkshire Sweats fell out of favour and today’s horses are trained using very different methods. But the high moors remain one of the best places to train racehorses and Middleham is still one of the leading training centers in the UK. With more than 400 winners each year for the past 38 years, the town’s 13 trainers produce an average of almost a winner every single day of the year.
Middleham is one of the most picturesque small towns in the North of England with panoramic views of the Dales, as this video shows http://www.middlehamtrainers.com 

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