Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Foot and mouth fears halt endurance event

Wiltshire Article

AN ENDURANCE riding event that attracted Dubai oil sheikhs to Swindon has been cancelled because of the foot and mouth crisis.

The Ridgeway Ride was due to take place on Saturday and Sunday at Barbury Castle, pitting long distance riders from across Britain against each other.

But the risk of spreading the disease during cross-country rides was too great and put the future of the event in jeopardy.

Jill Kent, 54, from Chiseldon, who was the co-organiser of the event with Mike Rowe, said: "It's a tremendous shame because the event was a real success last year.

"We had Sheikh Mohammed and his sons bring their Arabian horses here and people travelled from Scotland and Ireland.

"We held extensive consultations with landowners and the overall feeling was that we should cancel."

The 280 entrants to the Endurance GB competition were set to ride in 20-mile loops around the Wiltshire countryside, through grazing land and along bridleways.

Jill said: "The nature of the discipline requires horses to go across country and therefore through different farms and estates.

"We do thorough health checks before each race, but it would not have been possible to eradicate the threat of spreading infection.

"We rely on landowners' goodwill to make the event a success, so it was decided to cancel to allow for a clear run next year."

Unfortunately for some competitors leaving Ireland and Scotland the call to cancel came too late.

Jill said: "Some people were setting out to come here when they received the news, which must have been disappointing.

"We have a tremendous range of people and horses come to the area, and after all the bad weather earlier in the summer this looked like being a success."

The ride originally took place in Chiseldon, but as more and more riders attended Jill switched venues.

She said: "We get stallions, geldings and mares competing, who all have different strengths.

"It's known throughout the UK and hopefully we will be back in 2008."

While The Gatcombe Horse Trials took place last weekend, Jill suspects that other horse shows will be cancelled in the coming weeks.

She said: "The movement of animals and trailers around the country introduces an element of risk that a lot of event stagers will want to avoid."

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