If it had been a three-day-event, it probably would have been cancelled, but the endurance riders at last week’s Golden Horseshoe Ride over Exmoor are made of sterner stuff.
The 180 competitive riders a rode through mud, wind and rain in the worse weather the famous event has experienced. But the poor weather failed to put a damper on the riders, and as one official put it, completing the event was “a triumph over adversity”.
“The weather was atrocious. Easily the worst we have ever had,” said organiser Barbara Wigley. “The first day was cold and windy, but the other two were dominated by constant rain which turned everywhere into a mud bath!”
By the last day, start times were almost abandoned as competitors struggled to reach the showground. “It was so difficult to get on to the field that many arrived late after hacking up to four miles to get there.”
As one bedraggled steward put it: “To complete was a triumph over adversity.”
But the seven classes still produced 23 Gold awards, 25 Bronze and 17 Silver, with two of the Golds going to Sarah Takle and Sue Salmon in the 25km Para-invitation class. Sarah has lost sight in one eye and Sue has a small-muscle wasting condition affecting her hands and feet. Tilly Shepherd, who has cerebral palsy, took a Bronze and ex-jockey Ed Chanin, who suffered life-threatening head and back injuries in a schooling fall, was eliminated when his horse Embla Richmond was lame at the finish.
Paralympic team Gold and freestyle Silver medals winner Debbie Criddle was on the course to watch, together with David Hamer, manager of the Start and Potential Para Dressage squad.
Organiser Barbara Wigley said it was hoped that the class would become permanent and that more para-riders would compete next year.
There were 10 starters in the gruelling, two-day 160km Torq-sponsored Golden Horseshoe class – ridden through the worst of the weather – with the top award, a Silver, going to veteran David Yeoman on Marlouf de Norvavre. His was the only medal, with the only other finisher, 14 year-old Katy Mellor and Angelina Ginny – at 12.2hh the smallest pony ever to have completed 160k at the Horseshoe – earning a completion.
One of the new classes to the three-day meeting, the Exmoor Extra, 120km ridden over three days, produced only one award, and that was a Bronze for Christine Smyth and Peejay.
Two new 40km classes on Sunday, one for novice combinations and one for combinations at open level or above, attracted good entries. Eleven Gold awards were taken in the novice class and four in the open. In the open class, mother and daughter pair Mary and Katie Hannah attracted a lot of attention with their matching Exmoors Kingsby Nutmeg and Kingsby Elderberry. They went on to take Silver awards.
The Exmoor Experience, a two-day 80km ride sponsored this year by Griffin NuuMed, was established to give riders a chance to experience two competitive days over the demanding Exmoor terrain. It produced seven Golds this year.
“The popularity of this class was one of the reasons we introduced the novice 40km ride this year,” Wigley said. It’s important because people tend to be a little nervous of taking on the challenge of Exmoor. Young Katy Mellor is one rider who has ridden this class in the past, and this year moved on to the much more demanding 160km ride.”
Images below © Ian Wigley