Endurance riding enthusiasts will flock to the tiny village of Exford in the heart of Exmoor this weekend, for Britain’s ultimate endurance challenge for horse and rider, the Golden Horseshoe Ride.

The 160km ride returns to its traditional Exford home this year, after moving away to Dunster last year due to health and safety concerns about the site. The decision to move the ride, which was established in 1965 and had been based in Exford since the 1970s, proved extremely controversial.

Endurance GB chairman Wendy Dunham says: “Riders are thrilled that the Golden Horseshoe is back in Exford. As long as we are welcomed by the village, Exford is the ride’s home.”

This year’s ride takes place on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 May, with the advanced level endurance riders having to cover 80km each day at 12kph or faster across the challenging Exmoor terrain to achieve the prestigious gold award.

Last year, only two of the nine riders who attempted the ride completed, with only one horse, Lis Cooper’s part-bred Arab mare Song Of Fire, passing the final vetting. With a new course and good weather forecasted, organisers hope this year will see more completions, while retaining the ride’s status as the ultimate endurance challenge.

Liz Hinings, chairman of the Wessex Group, which is organising the Golden Horseshoe this year, explains: “We believe we have devised one of the best routes the Golden Horseshoe has seen for many years. Local rider Anne Newton has either walked or ridden every inch of the route to ensure its suitability.”

Despite the organising team’s best efforts, the ride has only attracted one more entry than last year, and although disappointed with the numbers, Liz is upbeat about the future.

“Due to its place early in the endurance calendar, the Golden Horseshoe will always suffer because riders who are looking for team selection for international events are not prepared to risk their top horses across the challenging course,” she says.

“However, we believe that once riders have seen the changes we have put in place, many currently contesting the shorter Exmoor Stag and Exmoor Eighty classes will choose to step up to the 160km Golden Horseshoe distance next year.”

In the meantime Liz is hoping that the weather remains dry over the next few days and that it is cooler than it has been for the ride early next week.

“We are very hopeful that we will have some good successes this year. The course is tough but achievable, and providing the riders ride it sensibly then there is every chance of success,” she concludes.

For more information visit: www.goldenhorseshoe-ride.co.uk