Press release – Riding on the Moors:

Endurance South West: Riding on the Moors – press release

Here in Devon and Cornwall we have some of the best moorland riding in Britain. Not perhaps as mountainous as Scotland or Wales but tough, rocky and hilly – just the job for endurance riding.

Every year members of Endurance South West work hard to put on competitive rides over the moors and this year, so far, there has been one on Dartmoor and two on Bodmin Moor with the Camelford Ride to follow in September.

Organising these rides is not easy. They always have to take place during the drier (hopefully) months of the year to keep damage to sensitive moorland to a minimum. There are very few bridleways crossing the moors and in Cornwall, every area of Bodmin Moor has several different owners, different commoners associations and different concerns to be addressed.

At the Minions Moorland ride, the route crosses land belonging to six different landowners. In addition, the St Cleer Commoners have to give their permission and Natural England has to be consulted because of the historical sites and the SSIs in the area.

On the West Moor Ride, the landowners won’t have the Trail Riders Fellowship so the route must be marked by landrovers which a slow job, whilst on Dartmoor the route must be marked on foot (all 32 km of it) since the National Park Authority do not allow any vehicles onto the moor.

Despite this, and the appalling weather so far this summer, all three rides have been a great success.

For the second year running, the Minions ride was just that, a testing ride of endurance in weather that would keep most other riders indoors with their horses rugged or stabled. Luckily, endurance riders and their horses are made of sterner stuff.

“We had a lot of calls the day before to see if the ride was going ahead,” said Sue Speed, Ride Organiser.” But the weather here is so unpredictable that if we had cancelled when we heard the forecast it might well have been sunny. Only if the mist had really closed in would the ride have been called off.”

Seventy riders took part, in classes varying from 32 km to an 80 km ER. Conditions underfoot varied from very muddy from the constant rain, to stony tracks and granite outcrops with some energy sapping canters across squelchy moorland turf.

The route took them across the Moor and into Smallacombe Plantation, through Minions village and around Caradon Hill, dotted with chimneys and mining remains. An extra 10 mile loop for the longer classes went up over Sharp Tor and around Twelve Men’s Moor, climbing up and over the granite covered slopes of Kilmar, the most physically testing part of the ride for the horses.

In the 80 km ER, Somerset rider David Yeoman finished in first place on Haszar, Jill Semmen on Evermore Exciting was second, and Tristan Bishop was third on Dubai Valentino.

David Yeoman well on his way to winning the 80 km ER on Haszar at the Minions Moorland Ride
Photo by Martin Broadfoot

Haszar, an 11-year-old Arab gelding, from Scotland, obviously loves the south west moors. Two weeks later at the West Moor Ride, he again won the 80 km ER, but this time on one of the few sunny days of July.

The West Moor ride, like Minions, also has a forestry section but the going on this part of Bodmin moor is faster with good going over undulating grassland.This is always a popular ride, with over 100 competitors this year and 20 horses and riders entered in the two 80 km classes.

In the ER, Lesley Dore came second on Firebird, with Tristram Bishop once again third on Dubai Valentino.

The Hound Tor Ride from Manaton on Dartmoor was the first competitive endurance ride to be run on this side of Dartmoor for 14 years.

Last year Vicky Mosey, a member of Endurance South West, organised a team of volunteers to mark a short Training Ride on foot but this year she really went for it with a full competitive ride.

“It was pretty hard work,” she said. “We dropped people off at points around the route on the Saturday to make with ribbons and flags, and then had to do the same thing all over again after the ride on Sunday, in reverse.”

Sixty riders turned out to ride the route, which went up past Bowerman’s Nose and Hound Tor onto Bonehill Down and down and around to the first checkpoint on Pudsham Down. From here the competitors headed for Cockingford before climbing steeply up onto the ridge above Widecombe in the Moor and riding north across the peaty tracks of the Two Moors Way over Hamel Down. Leaving Grimspound below them, they descended slightly to cross the road before making a loop around Challacombe and returning to the start via Natsworthy Manor.

Chris Austin on Meg (right) with Dee Wilkinson on Sunny, taking part in her first competitive endurance ride at Hound Tor
Photo by Dave Manford

“The views from the ridge were fantastic,” said Glenda Smith from Altarnun, who was riding in the 65 km class with her 12-year-old daughter, Shannon. “We could see Princetown in one direction and the sea in another. Then, on our second circuit, the rain swept in and we saw nothing but the flags ahead.”

One competitor who was taking part in her first endurance ride was Chris Austin on Meg, a 15hh 10-year-old coloured cob.

“Meg has done dressage and one-day events and one training ride but this was our longest ride to date,” she explained. “I absolutely love endurance riding and so does Meg. She managed the wet peaty going very well and was very balanced and sure footed over the stony parts of the route.

“I have joined the Endurance South West new Associate Membership Scheme and intend to do lots more rides.”
The South West group of Endurance GB is one of the smallest in the country but thanks to its dedicated and hardworking Ride Organisers, it also has some of the very best rides.

Jane Holden


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