Perfect conditions, blissful weather and brilliant organisation turned this year’s Golden Horseshoe ride into “an extraordinarily successful event”, with four out of eight starters in the feature ride returning home to retrieve a Gold Award.

The end of Monday saw six of the Class 1 competitors finishing within minutes of each other, completing the first day with average speeds of 13.3kph. Only one endurance veteran, Richard Turpin, took the pace more steadily. He is of the view that completion is more important than speed, a view that has been developed through experience of similar rides in Australia, where up to 250 horses compete.

Only one horse was spun at the halfway vetting on Monday. Dainty Dancer, ridden by Pauline Higgs pulled hard at the start, and threw Pauline when she stumbled down a narrow stony track. Vets couldn’t pinpoint a specific problem, but the horse didn’t seem right, and was eliminated.

On Tuesday morning, the seven competitors in Class 1 were reduced to five. Richard Turpin decided to retire his Carmargue pony, as he seemed to be running a little stiff, and Jackie Whiteley’s Sheer Nanigan was eliminated at the pre-ride second day vetting.

The five riders remaining in Class 1 on Tuesday rode the whole day as a group, maintaining a Gold Award speed throughout the day, and crossing the finish line before three o’clock, completing the 100 miles at average speeds of around 13kph.

But the day was not over yet, and a tense period ensued as the horses went through their final vetting before winning the prestigious awards. Four out of the five were pronounced sound, but disappointingly, Zahra Bint el Aswad, the brilliant little bay mare ridden by Annie Lovell was obviously lame in the trot up, and so missed out on the Gold Award.

Liz Hinings, organiser of the event, was ecstatic about the results. “It’s been an absolutely fantastic week,” she said. “It’s not unheard of, but so many finishers are unusual. It says a lot about the sympathetic riding, and understanding these riders have of their horses that they have ridden them over hard ground for 100 miles and still finish well.”

The event returned to its traditional location at Exford, in the heart of Exmoor this year. “It was clear at the presentation that the riders were delighted to be back here,” explains Liz. “It is a truly beautiful setting, and there was a great deal of local interest.”

In the lower grade shorter classes, The Exmoor Stag and the Exmoor Eighty, completion rates were also high, with 50% completing in Class 2, The Exmoor Stag, and two competitors Mary Chowne with Lumahla Gold and Barbara Wigley with Bletso Royal Mari finished well enough to win Stag Awards.

In Class 3, The Exmoor Eighty, 23 horses and riders completed, with a total of three Grade 1 achievements: Susan Hawes with Dahlih, Linda Burrows on the ex-racehorse Rostreamer and Krissie Jones with her own Red.

Golden Awards:

Dinmor Dougall (Mary Korn) 13kph
Bowdell Diplomat (Judy White) 13kph
Vlacq Teleri (Sue Bostelmann) 13.3kph
Infidella (Carolyn Pacey) 12.9kph