Villagers fight for Golden Horseshoe

Efforts are underway to return the Golden Horseshoe endurance ride to its long-time base at Exford, in the heart of Exmoor, after poor entries for this year’s running of the endurance classic.

In its heyday, the ride attracted more than 100 riders for the major class alone. However, just nine lined up for the two-day 100-mile (160km) contest this year, with just one rider completing the course for a bronze award.

The ride has always been one of the world’s toughest and a completion, particularly with a coveted gold award, is seen as the pinnacle of achievement.

Falling entries have been a problem for a number of years, leading to revised route and speed requirements in 2000, which resulted in a glut of gold awards. The event held an FEI class for the first time in 2002, attracting leading competitors from the USA, Malaysia and France. But the combination of fog, wind, rain, sleet and boggy going proved too much and there were no completions.

Then, in a further setback, sponsorHilton Herbs pulled out. Somerset-based Griffin NuuMed stepped in to support the ride, which was moved to Dunster, on the northern fringes of the moor, after organisers raised safety concerns over the venue in the village of Exford.

Organiser Martin Pickard says: “I was reluctant to leave Exford but there were health and safety concerns over the venue. Some people have said they missed the Exford atmosphere, while others found the new venue more convenient.

“The declining entries reflect a changing climate in endurance riding. Things are different now – at one time this was the only major ride – now there are several.

“But when you cross the finishing line at the end of the Horseshoe, you know you are an endurancerider. Everyone still wants to do the ride at some time in their career.”

Exford resident Beth Horstman, who is behind the community’s bid to bring back the ride to the village, says: “We’ve now found a possible new site that answers all theconcerns over health and safety. Next, we have to resolve the issue of temporary stabling and we want to discuss that with the organisers.”

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (10 July), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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