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Exford Fights Back

Villagers stunned by last minute decision to move Golden Horseshoe Ride

Exford village is fighting back against a decision to move the prestigious Golden Horseshoe endurance ride, scheduled for May 16-18, away from the Exmoor centre it has enjoyed for more than 25 years.

Exford has seen the testing contest - originally 75 miles and now 100 miles over two days - develop alongside the sport now rated as a world event. Competitors have traditionally been stabled in and around the village for the three days and friendly inter-stable rivalry over medals and successes has been intense.

"But we, like the competitors, were told only at the last minute that the organisers, Endurance GB, have moved it to Dunster," said Mrs Beth Horstman, who volunteered to chair the six-man committee.

"We want it back. Exford is the home of the Golden Horseshoe Ride. It is an important event to the economy of the village and estimates have put its value at about £100,000." Accommodation is regularly reserved for Ride dates, and bookings which cannot be recovered, have been turned away.

"A lot of money has been lost already and we know that competitors like Exford and are as upset about the decision as we are," Mrs Horstman said.

The committee is now working to answer some of the parent body's recently admitted criticisms of the Exford venue, among them concerns over Health and Safety aspects at its usual Auction Field venue, gradients away from and into the start and finish points and alleged local hostility. There is also an intention to "centralise" the organisation and erect temporary stabling.

"There is not one thing we cannot solve, and had we been told earlier they could all have been resolved for this year," Mrs Horstman said. "We have already found a possible new site which answers all the criticisms and promises of support are coming in all the time. Our only real concern is the temporary stabling and we want to discuss that with the organisers."

One member of the committee has been delegated to circulate among farmers and landowners as well as local businesses to identify and allay criticisms, and Commander Jim Collins, the former Exmoor National Park head ranger who originally helped set routes, has volunteered to advise and help where he can.

The committee plans to invite the chairman of Endurance GB to attend its next meeting, and is asking Exford Parish Council, the Exmoor National Park and West Somerset District Council to support its moves.

"It is unlikely we could get it back this year," said Mrs Horstman, "but we see no reason why we cannot provide all the facilities to welcome the Ride back for 2004."


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