The British Horse Society (BHS) was founded in 1947 when two separate equestrian bodies - The National Horse Association, and the Institute of the Horse and the Pony Club decided to join forces and work together for the good of both horse and rider. Membership now stands at around 56,000. In addition there are 40,000 members of affiliated Riding Clubs.
As a registered charity, membership is vitally important to the BHS. Subscriptions provide the money which enables the charitable objectives of the Society to be met - promoting the welfare, care and use of the horse and pony, through the encouragement of horsemanship and the improvement of horse management and breeding. The Society represents all equine interests, for the sake of the horse.
New demands have been placed on the Society by changes in the last 50 years. The workload of the ACCESS AND RIGHTS OF WAY department has grown in direct relation to modern farming methods and expansion of urbanisation. Intensive systems resulted in the ploughing up of ancient rights of way and the rural rider is faced with fewer safe places to ride. The BHS campaigns for greater provision of off road riding and carriage driving by working with landowners and local authorities to reclassify footpaths historically used by riders, to create new routes and to clear blocked bridleways. In May 2000, the BHS launched RIDE UK, a vision of a network of riding and driving routes throughout the country, with long distance routes such as the Pennine Bridleway, lining in to regional routes such as Swans Way, which in turn will link in to community routes. The aim is to provide suitable off road riding for every horse owner, whether they want an hour’s hack from their yard or a month’s long distance ride. The BHS publishes a series of trail guides: " ...on Horseback" giving details and maps of circular and linear rides in over twenty counties and regions using bridleways and quiet roads. Over 100 BHS Bridleways Officers, co-ordinated by the Director of Access and Rights of Way, are in continuous consultation with County Councils and other organisations regarding provisions for recreational riding.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Society’s work is carried out under the BREEDING AND WELFARE banner. However much the BHS does for the rider (and that includes non members) its prime duty is working for the well-being of the horse. The Society’s aim is to prevent neglect and cruelty before it ever takes place. In other words, by educating and advising owners - particularly new owners, on correct management practices, potential problems can be nipped in the bud. Over 80 BHS County Welfare representatives, co-ordinated by the Director of Welfare, support and advise horse owners throughout the country. As the ears and eyes of the Society, they are in an ideal position to identify horses that are suffering and if necessary remove them.
In October 1997 the BHS opened its National Rescue Centre, which is now based near Oxhill in Warwickshire, where animals in poor condition can be taken for treatment and eventually be rehomed. Ponies needing longer term care can be ‘adopted’ by the public, helping to cover the cost of their upkeep.
Active BHS participation on the National Equine Welfare Council, the Farm Livestock Advisory Council, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, the Joint National Horse Education and Training Ltd, to name but a few, ensures the future of the horse in the UK.
The British Horse Society is responsible for administering affiliated RIDING CLUBS which promote fun and instruction whilst offering competition opportunities to riders across the country.
SAFETY is a major concern for everyone who rides and for the BHS. As a direct result of the Society’s campaigning the Highway Code introduced specific advice on horses on the roads. BHS Riding and Road Safety Tests are organised throughout the country and a wealth of information is given on equipment and clothing, particularly hats. The BHS Safety Campaign aims to reduce the number of horse related traffic accidents by the year 2000 by educating riders and motorists and about the particular problems of riders as vulnerable road users. As part of the campaign a leaflet and video ‘Horse Sense for Motorists’, was produced in collaboration with the Department of Transport. The video won the Prince Michael Road Safety Award in December 1997. 72 Road Safety representatives co-ordinated by the Director of Safety train riders in roadcraft and examine candidates.
The BHS has a large TRAINING AND EDUCATION department which handles over 12,000 enquiries each year. They administer a wide range of examinations ranging from Progressive Riding Tests for the recreational rider through to a full professional qualification structure. Qualified instructors work to ensure that horses are sympathetically trained and ridden. The Society believes that the public should be able to expect both a high standard of teaching and safety from riding instructors and has created a Register of Instructors to meet this end.
Since 1961 the BHS has run a scheme for the Approval of Riding Schools. Establishments which offer sound instruction in riding and horsemanship and whose premises, facilities and animals are properly looked after are given the BHS ‘seal of approval’. There are about 725 BHS approved riding establishments in Britain, and abroad. The system provides a useful guide for newcomers when selecting a venue with details of each riding establishment published in ‘Where to Ride’.
These vital aspects of work are co-ordinated and administered from the BHS headquarters with its permanent staff of 60. In April 1998 the BHS HQ moved to Stoneleigh Deer Park, Kenilworth, just a mile from the RASE Showground which had been their home for 21 years, ever since the move from Belgrave Square in London.
SO HOW IS IT ALL DONE?
The Society is governed by a board of trustees who oversee the work which is funded largely by membership subscriptions.
The national headquarters at Stoneleigh is supported by a network of regional and county committees - the hard working and enthusiastic volunteers without whom the Society simply could not operate. Representative volunteers offer expert advice at regional and county level in the fields of equine welfare, access and riding rights of way and road safety but committee members have the ability to represent the horse world on any subject. Committees are supported by Regional Development Officers who are full-time employees of the Society.
This is of course, a very concentrated description of the BHS, its work and responsibilities. Anyone who is interested in horses and ponies, can find out more by getting in touch with the relevant department at:
The British Horse Society
Stoneleigh Deer Park
Warwickshire, CV8 2XZ.
Tel: 08701 20 22 44
Fax: 01926 707 800
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