The organisers of the charity ride, Horses for Heroes, have been forced reduce their entry fee after support dwindled.
The entry fee — which goes towards the day’s organisation, not the military charity Help for Heroes — was originally set at £100. It was raised to £175 earlier this year to cover escalating costs (news, 18 February), but the organisers were forced to backtrack to £100 after riders complained.
Organiser HPower admits many of the 300 riders, who had already paid their entries to take part in the five-mile ride round Windsor Great Park, requested full refunds after being asked for an extra £75.
“It wasn’t ideal,” said Kelly Smith, PR manager of HPower. “A lot of people were put off.”
One of these was Michelle Foley, from Forest Green, Surrey, who said: “One hundred pounds is a lot for a sponsored ride, but because it’s an excellent cause, I signed up. When the organisers wrote to say that the entry fee had practically doubled to ‘cover costs’, I binned the entry form. I can’t justify that kind of money for a ride, no matter how good the cause.
“Presumably, when they weren’t getting enough entries, they reduced the fee — but I’ve been put off now.”
Ms Smith said organisers had gone “back to the drawing-board” to drive costs down and encourage people to join up.
She said: “Leaflets are being printed for free, vets and stewards have agreed to work for nothing, and, if Ascot racecourse and HPower have to shoulder costs, so be it.”
British Equestrian Federation chief executive Andrew Finding paid £100 to enter last year but declined to comment on whether he stumped up another £75.
“Reducing the cost back to £100 was the right thing to do,” he said. “The objective is to raise money for Help for Heroes and keeping the costs down is part of that.”
So far, 1,800 people have registered to ride, and paid-for entries have risen to 700 since the rate reduction before Easter. Riders must raise at least £500 in sponsorship, for the charity, on top of the entry fee.
Places are still available on www.horses4heroes.co.uk
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (15 April, 2010)