I popped up to Exford showground earlier, because today was the last day of the 2011 Exmoor Golden Horseshoe Ride – a famous equine endurance event. The multi-day marathon is renowned as a tough challenge (although you can do the Pleasure Ride for fun) where riders and their beasts take routes across moorland.
At the weekend, the Sunday Pleasure Ride took place, including the Family Class entrants. Why did it feature so many Exmoor Ponies? Some people get sponsored to raise money for the Moorland Mousie Trust or the Devon and Somerset Air Ambulance.
At the field I met with Val Sherwin of the Moorland Mousie Trust (MMT), and volunteer fundraiser Sheila. We are working with MMT to establish a new part-time job based at the Exmoor Pony Centre (just off Winsford Hill, near Dulverton). Keep watching our blog for the job advert and more news on the Exmoor Pony Officer very soon!
Then I had a chat with Jackie and Jill at the fundraising stall for the Exmoor Pony Society (EPS) and who have a moorland Exmoor Pony herd at Dunkery. Jackie told me that for the main classes of rider this is serious stuff. Not only do you have to get a fast time, your horse must show a speedy recovery – judges check heart rates after the ride! The hardest of the lot is ‘Class One’ whose entrants will ride about 160km in total, over 2 days.
Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership is working with EPS and MMT on a new project called Promoting Exmoor Ponies. We have funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in recognition of Exmoor Ponies as an integral part of the moorland heritage and landscape character. Not only are they beautiful beasts – they are also very important moorland grazers, and Exmoors are a popular breed for conservation grazing projects around the UK.
Photos and updates
Find the latest news at the Exmoor Golden Horseshoe Ride website.