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Riding on Epsom Downs

Middle Hill Gallop

Riders ascend Middle Hill, a 500m-long grass slope with over 30m of height gained towards Walton Road. Behind is the back straight of the racecourse.

Epsom Downs (properly known as Epsom and Walton Downs) is an extensive area of chalk downland just south of Epsom in Surrey. At its core is the renowned Epsom Downs racecourse, best known for the annual Derby Stakes, open to three-year-old Thoroughbred colts and fillies. The downs are also important both for public recreation and the training of racehorses, and are managed by a board of conservators.

The downs have some of the best public facilities for exercising and hacking horses in Surrey, and perhaps in the home counties. The downs were formerly common land, and for many years, until the 1930s, the townspeople of Epsom and the racing trainers warily asserted their competing interests in the use of the downs for recreation — including horseriding — and training. Now, the downs are regulated by a local Act of Parliament, but there are still over 20km of hack rides and hack areas for horse riders' use, including extensive areas of grassland, sand tracks and even gallops, and if you visit in the afternoon, there are seldom many other horses around. Understanding where you can and can't ride, the presence of horses in training during the morning, and the popularity of the downs for kite flying, model aeroplane flying, dog walking and other potentially conflicting activities, are some of the challenges — but if you can cope with these, you'll want to come again!

Riders are required to observe the and asked to observe the code of conduct. If you'd like a suggestion for a hack on the downs, try the hack ride no.1, or if you're riding in the afternoon, hack ride no.2 incorporating the new hack canter.

Until August 2019, I was the British Horse Society's access and bridleways officer for the borough of Epsom and Ewell, but have resigned from that role to focus on other activities for the Society. Accordingly, I am no longer able to keep up to date the information which formerly appeared here about riding on the downs and the governance of the downs. You can still see an archive of the web page, as at August 2018, and I will retain the two suggested hack rides until further notice, but would welcome comments or updates from those who use them. You can still view this copy of the signed map, which remains the statutory record of the existence of hack rides and hack areas. And I may occasionally continue to post on my hack writer blog about riding on the downs and elsewhere in the area.

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Page last updated: 27 November 2022

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