British Horse Society

The British Horse Society (BHS) is a membership-based equine charity,[3] with a stated vision of "a Society which provides a strong voice for horses and people and which spreads awareness through support, training and education". It currently has more than 92,000 members,[1] with a further 34,000 members affiliated through a British Riding Club,[4] making it the largest equine membership organisation in the United Kingdom. It is one of the 19 organisations which form part of the British Equestrian Federation.[5]

The British Horse Society
British horse society
Founded5 November 1947
TypeCharitable organisation
Registration no.England and Wales: 210504 Scotland: SC038516
  • Abbey Park, Stareton, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 2XZ
Coordinates52°20′35″N 1°29′57″W / 52.343048°N 1.499186°W
Area served
United Kingdom
Over 92,000[1]
Key people
Lynn Petersen, Martin Clunes
87 (average full-time equivalent) (2012)[2]


The BHS was founded in 1947 in the amalgamation of two organisations - the Institute of the Horse and Pony Club, and the National Horse Association of Great Britain. Mary Colvin was its first president.


The primary objectives of the BHS are:

  • To promote and advance the education, training and safety of the public in all matters relating to the horse
  • To promote the use, breeding, well-being, safety, environment, health and management of the horse for the public benefit
  • To promote community participation in healthy recreation involving the horse
  • To promote and facilitate the prevention of cruelty, neglect or harm to horses and to promote the relief, safety, sanctuary, rescue and welfare of horses in need of care, attention and assistance
  • To promote and secure the provision, protection and preservation of rights of way and of access for riding and driving horses over public roads, highways, footpaths, bridleways, carriageways, public paths and other land.[6]

British Riding Clubs

The British Riding Clubs (BRC) movement became affiliated to The British Horse Society over fifty years ago, when several riding clubs from the South East England area approached the BHS with the idea of providing a scheme where riding clubs could become affiliated to the BHS, while remaining relatively autonomous, running their own affairs. Since then, the numbers have grown considerably, with more than 440 affiliated clubs, over 50 affiliated riding centres, and over 34,000 members, each coming within one of 23 administrative areas. Each riding club's membership is open to everyone, from leisure riders to competitors.[7]

The aims of BRC are to help people ride, compete and train together at national competitions, training and social events.[4] BRC areas organise a wide range of competitive, social and educational activities for their members, with championships held at some of Britain's most prestigious events, such as the Royal Windsor Horse Show, the Royal International Horse Show, and the London International Horse Show (Olympia).[8]


The President of the Society is Martin Clunes.[9] The Patron of the Society is Her Majesty The Queen.[1]


Qualifications, training and education

The BHS has an extensive and world-standard system of qualifications, training and education, including the Horse Owner's Certificates which are aimed at the leisure rider, and the Stages exams which lead to various riding instructor's and groom's qualifications.[10]

The BHS also maintains a Register of Instructors[11] in the UK and around the world.

Access and Rights of Way

The BHS Access and Rights of Way department works to improve the bridleways network throughout England, Scotland and Wales. It has created the 'National Bridleroute Network' of long distance equestrian routes, incorporating bridleways, byways and minor roads, which it has called 'bridleroutes'.[12] This work is supported by a network of national committees and regional groups. The BHS is consulted about proposed legislation, government planning guidance, Definitive Maps and road schemes, and has influenced and continues to influence legislation.[13]

The BHS were among a group of organisations [14] against a decision by the BMW car company over their decision to reassign the use of BMW property in Oxfordshire, resulting in closure of an existing bridleway with no alternative offered. The BHS challenged this decision by BMW in court and subsequently lost and were ordered to repay legal costs to BMW. Some questioned BHS management's application of limited financial resources to the cause. The good intent of the BHS was recognised by many, as the continued loss of bridleways across the country has eroded the freedom of those participating in horseriding activities. A protest against the court's decision, supported by a local councillor, was unsuccessful.[15]


The BHS Safety Department promotes the ongoing improvement of horse and rider safety. This includes campaigning for recognition and safe conditions for riders on Britain's roads.

Education of motorists and riders is a high priority.[16] The Riding and Road Safety test is taken by more than 4,000 candidates every year. This helps to educate riders in road safety and to minimise the risks involved when riding on the road.[17]

The Society runs a website dedicated to safety advice and reporting safety incidents, The data collected is used to lobby for better conditions for equestrians. In the site's first two years, the BHS saw a 250% increase in road accidents reported to them, and incidents involving dog attacks helped influence changes to the Dangerous Dogs Bill.[18]


The BHS Welfare team aims to prevent cases of cruelty and neglect through education. This is achieved through its network of welfare volunteers, advisory literature, and a dedicated team at the Society's headquarters. The experience of BHS Welfare volunteers is intended to allow the Society to respond quickly in an informed manner to reports of equine suffering and neglect, giving advice and guidance to horse owners on a long-term basis where necessary.[19]

As well as responding to welfare concerns, the department lobbies government on a number of welfare-related issues;[13] runs campaigns including the Ragwort Awareness Campaign;[20] promotes responsible breeding through its 'Think Before You Breed' campaign[21] and close link with the BHS Horse and Pony Breeds Committee; works closely with other welfare organisations,[19][22] and monitors the horses and ponies on the BHS's rehoming scheme.

To help fund its work, BHS Welfare organises and runs Challenge Rides to Peru, Jordan, Iceland, Bulgaria, Iceland, India, Lesotho, Mongolia, Morocco, Spain and Inner Mongolia.[23]


Dead Slow

In March 2016, the BHS launched its Dead Slow campaign, to encourage drivers to slow down to 15 mph and pass widely when they meet horses on the road.[24]

The campaign earned national coverage on BBC TV[25] and radio,[26] featured on petrol pumps across the UK[27] and was raised as an Early Day Motion in Parliament by Liz Saville-Roberts MP.[27]


Ministry of Defence

The BHS caused controversy in November 2006, by issuing an award to the U.K. Ministry of Defence for actions taken to improve the safety for horse riders in areas of the country used for low flight level aircraft training. The M.O.D. had previously been found directly responsible for the death of a novice horse rider and had been ordered to address their low flying policies as a result.

Some felt the award was ethically improper; particularly so since the BHS had used the name of the accident victim in promotional material without the consent of the family members.[28]

Noel Edmonds

In June 2006, the then President of the BHS, celebrity Noel Edmonds, severely criticised the BHS for failing to fulfill its fundamental aims; that of recruitment of the existing horse riding community to the organisation and positive promotion of the activity to potential new participants. The Chairman of the BHS, Patrick Print, attempted to mitigate Edmonds's statements by quoting some recent activities the BHS had participated in. Edmonds resigned from his position at the BHS a few months later.[29]


In 2007, an issue of a BHS publication carried an article on the controversial rollkur procedure (otherwise known as LDR or Hyperflection) debate. The BHS received letters of complaint from its membership and some individuals called for the resignation of the senior management of the BHS for bringing the organisation's name into disrepute. The response of the then Chairman, Patrick Print, to a letter from one member was deemed dismissive and confrontational by some members.[30] The BHS has since published a policy based on the procedure being 'an unacceptable method of training horses by any rider for any length of time.' [31]


British Horse Society Head Quarters and Green Roof
The new British Horse Society HQ circles an ancient Oak tree and is topped with a Sedum green roof

In 2010 the outdated premises were replaced with a state of the art eco-friendly HQ which sits within Abbey Park in Warwickshire. The 3.5 acre site offered a great location but came with various planning issues and constraints due to the rural location. The architects had to come up with a solution to have a minimal effect on the green belt land beyond.

Sky Garden British Horse Society Green Roof
A view across the Sky Garden green roof showing the ancient oak tree standing at the centre of the British Horse Society Headquarters.

The design they came up with was just a single storey, and circled a mature oak tree which had stood on the site for years. Constructed from natural stone, clad with European Oak and topped with a sedum green roof, the aim was to create an ecosystem around the one central oak. The aim for the building was to create a high quality modern building, without compromising the surrounding countryside. To ensure this the materials used were sustainable sourced and the building was designed with this in mind.[32]

Green Roof

The 2200sqm roof took around 3 weeks to install in the summer of 2010. The green roof featured a specialist drainage and filter layer, topped with extensive substrate and a pre grown sedum blanket. The roof provides insulation to the building, helping it stay cool in the hot summer months and warm during the winter.[33] Studies show that a thick layer of vegetation can increase the efficiency of the roof by up to 60%.[34] The rural location meant the green roof helped to reduce the aesthetic impact of the building and blended it into its surroundings.


  1. ^ a b c "Our Purpose". The British Horse Society.
  2. ^ "The British Horse Society Annual Report 2012". BHS website.
  3. ^ Charity Commission. British Horse Society, registered charity no. 210504.
  4. ^ a b "British Riding Clubs". The British Horse Society.
  5. ^ "Member Bodies". British Equestrian Federation.
  6. ^ "Our Mission". The British Horse Society.
  7. ^ "British Riding Clubs Centre Membership Scheme". The British Horse Society.
  8. ^ "BRC Championships". The British Horse Society.
  9. ^ "Our People". The British Horse Society.
  10. ^ "BHS Register of Instructor and Grooms". The British Horse Society.
  11. ^ "BHS Register of Instructors and Grooms". The British Horse Society.
  12. ^ "The British Horse Society: EMAGIN". The British Horse Society.
  13. ^ a b "BHS and the Government". The British Horse Society.
  14. ^ "Private Eye Magazine via Equine Ramblers". Archived from the original on 13 March 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Riders protest over bridleway closed beside BMW car plant". Horse & Hound. November 2007.
  16. ^ "Advice and Prevention: Riding on the Road". The British Horse Society. July 2013.
  17. ^ "BHS Riding and Road Safety Test". The British Horse Society.
  18. ^ "British Horse Society Website Influencing Legislation". Horse & Hound. November 2012.
  19. ^ a b "BHS Welfare Officers". The British Horse Society.
  20. ^ "BHS Ragwort Campaign". The British Horse Society.
  21. ^ "Think Before You Breed". The British Horse Society.
  22. ^ "Winter of discontent for horses". The British Horse Society. October 2012.
  23. ^ "Challenge Rides". The British Horse Society.
  24. ^ "Dead? Or Dead Slow?: New statistics reveal threat on Britain's roads for horse riders | British Horse Society". Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  25. ^ "BBC Breakfast on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  26. ^ "BritishHorseSociety on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  27. ^ a b "Horse road safety campaign to reach millions of UK drivers".
  28. ^ "Outrage At MoD's Rider Death Safety Award". Market Rasen Mail. December 2006.
  29. ^ "Noel Edmonds Calls For Changes At The BHS". June 2006.
  30. ^ "BHS Response to Rollkur complaint". September 2008. Archived from the original on 17 June 2011.
  31. ^ "Policy on Hyperflexion". The British Horse Society.
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^

External links

Video clips

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