Friday, November 14, 2014

Great Britain: Bring your Ponies to the Golden Horseshoe - Full Story

by Nesta Oliver - (Published:10 November 2014)

When you decided to go into Endurance riding and started to think of what kind of horse to have, was your first thought, ‘I need an Arab’? or was it, ‘My cob/pony/hunter/shire or anything else I’ve got can do that’?

Back in the nineteen-eighties ‘my cob (etc) can do that’ is what most of us thought. The Arab as the ideal endurance horse had not been thought of. And those who thought ‘my cob can do that’ were right. In those days the Golden Horseshoe Ride was what everyone aimed for there was only one class, the one that is now called the Exmoor Stag: eighty/forty kilometers over two days. We worked in miles in those days so it was fifty/twenty five: it sounded easier with smaller numbers. In the eighties there were consistently between eighty and a hundred starters for that one class and everyone rode whatever horse or pony they had and knew how to get them fit.

So what happened? How did we get to entries of four or five horses for a competition that used to be thought of as the pinnacle of Endurance riding, available to all riders and all horses, not just the super brave and the elite? A lot has changed between then and now. There are far more competitions available nowadays so that is one reason perhaps, but here are a few others, and perhaps I can show you some reasons to come instead of not.

In the early nineteen-eighties, the minimum qualification for the Horseshoe was to complete one forty mile ride (sixty-four kilometers) and that was it. Nowadays we have to do more than just one ride to qualify, and sensibly so, because that makes sure that horses are fit enough by proving it in competition instead of just putting the miles in training on our own. But there is a difference in how we think of it. Now we call it ‘upgrading from Novice to Advanced’, and ‘Advanced’ sounds like something only the top people do: those with racing or international competition in mind. Remember those eighties? When anyone with any pony aspired to do the Horseshoe? Let’s look at the reality of upgrading because it’s not really so awesome. To get to Open you need three Novice completions; to get to advanced you only have to do two more rides, one of over sixty-four kilometers and one of eighty or more. That progression to advanced doesn’t sound huge when put like that, but we get frightened by that word ‘Advanced’, and we think it is...

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