The Griffin NuuMed Golden Horseshoe has a new venue and a new sponsor, but the essence of this great event remains the same – it is the toughest endurance challenge in England.

Only two of the nine entries completed the distance in the 160km two-day ride. With long-listed team horses no longer required to compete on Exmoor, many top riders were unwilling to risk their mounts on such a testing course so early in the season.

Of the two finishers, only one passed the final vetting. Lis Cooper’s part-bred Arab mare Song Of Fire trotted up strongly to claim a bronze award as well as a collection of trophies.

Sadly for the Ross family from Newton Abbot, Devon, their elegant 18-year-old home-bred Anglo Arab mare, East Burne Gemini, failed with a slight lameness.

Dr Kieran O’Brien, head of the veterinary panel, attributed the low completion rate to the high percentage of inexperienced horses and riders attempting the course for the first time.

In the pre-ride briefing, he emphasised the rigorous test the course presented. However, in the event, few metabolic problems surfaced and most eliminations were for minor lamenesses.

Staging the event at a weekend instead of midweek meant that many knowledgeable spectators were able to attend, including a number of former Horseshoe riders.

Opinion was divided on the controversial move from Exford, but most agreed that the new, spacious venue was an improvement, with camping, corralling and stabling on site, and the catering, bar, secretary and tradestands in a marquee.

A universal complaint was the lack of commentary, and some felt that the layout could be improved – these are issues that could easily be addressed.

Riders’ consensus was that the route followed a good traditional course, but several said that there was too much forestry and not enough moorland riding. All agreed that the greatly reduced number of gates to open and close was a good thing.

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (22 May), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.