9 things you might not know about the Golden Horseshoe Ride

  • The Golden Horseshoe was first run on Exmoor in 1965, but the current organiser Barbara Wigley, 67, retires this year, and no one has yet stepped up to take the helm. On the eve of its 50th anniversary, which could be its last, we take a look back at the ride’s history.

    1. The first ride was organised in 1965 by the British Horse Society, promoted by author Ronald Duncan and Colonel Mike Ansell, and sponsored by The Sunday Telegraph. It was so popular that organisers had to close entries a month early, having reached the limit of 110 entrants.

    2. The route started at Malmsmead and finished at Ronald Duncan’s home in Welcombe, Devon.

    3. In 1965 there were no markers, and riders had to find their own way, including navigating across ‘The Chains’ [a wild moorland ridge] with the help of local people on Exmoor ponies.

    4. There were also no vets, no RAYNET communications and no St John Ambulance on standby.

    5. For that first ride there was no minimum speed and one couple was allegedly seen to have their own chauffeured car following them, so that they could stop for a picnic along the way.

    6. In 1965, welfare campaigner Glenda Spooner and jockey John Oaksey were waiting at the finish to check the horses were in good condition.

    7. All those who completed that first race at 6mph or above received a gold-painted horseshoe.

    8. When the event started out, it used to move to a different venue each year, including Brighton and Yorkshire. But in 1974 it returned to Exmoor permanently.

    9. As the years passed, the ride became more organised with routes being marked out with painted horseshoes fixed on poles, and later with flags made out of fertiliser bags. Rules also became more stringent, and vetting procedures advanced to ensure that horse welfare was paramount.

    The 2015 ride runs from 17-19 May. For more information visit www.goldenhorseshoe-ride.co.uk

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