Another Epsom Downs tradition has come to an end.

The annual Horseman’s Sunday, which last year celebrated its 60th anniversary, has been cancelled – a victim of rising costs and dwindling numbers.

Even last year’s invitation to all pet owners to join the equestrian event failed to draw the crowds.

Carriage driver Lawrence Saupe, who has been taking part for almost 50 years, said: “It is a great shame. It is the end of an era.”

Until now only foot and mouth disease has kept riders and drivers off the Downs for the autumn ceremony, but that was just a one-year glitch and the event continued when the scare was over.

Horseman’s Sunday was founded in 1947 by Reggie Summerhays, a well-known author, judge and horse-breeder.

The occasion was traditionally held on Epsom Downs on the last Sunday of September.

Horseman’s Sunday event organiser Judith Crawford said: “It is with much sadness the decision has had to be made to cancel Horseman’s Sunday.

“It is not just the dwindling numbers that has had an effect, but also the expense to run the event from escalating insurance costs to road closures.

“For the last few years we have run at a loss, although I am very proud to say thanks to the generous sponsorship of local organisations and donations from the general public on the day itself, we have always managed to honour our contributions to the chosen charities of the year.”

During the ceremony riders of all ages and carriage drivers ride over the Downs before assembling for a short service of blessing.

They then take part in the parade – an annual event that has raised thousands of pounds for charity.

At its peak the event attracted more than 1,000 people.

Brass bands used to lead the parade, which also featured the famous Harrods horses and Young’s Brewery team.

Riding schools encouraged their pupils to join the parade and return to the stables with a rosette awarded to everyone who attended.

The only sour point of the 60-year history of Horseman’s Sunday was when illegal and antisocial trotting races scared some of the novice riders, which led to road closures for safety reasons.

But falling numbers hit an all time low last year, when only two carriages and a handful of riders attended, leading to the organisers deciding to call it a day.

The end of Horseman’s Sunday sees another Epsom Downs tradition come to an end.

Show Out Sunday, when the Downs was covered with stalls and sideshows in a huge pre-Derby celebration, ended some years ago, and this year the traditional Derby fair was axed from its Tattenham Corner position, downsized and moved to a new location.

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