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Starting an Equestrian Access Group

The BHS has nearly 150 affiliated equestrian access groups (UK, Northern Ireland and Scotland) working on behalf of all riders and carriage drivers to campaign for improved off-road riding. These groups help to uphold our values and promote equestrian access at a grass-roots level throughout the UK, monitoring local equestrian rights of way and working alongside local authorities and other groups. They are also a fun, sociable way of getting groups of equestrians together.

As you share our passion for horses, why not join us and help us campaign to improve off-road riding? With your help, we could do so much more. 

BHS Structure – Access and Rights of Way

Our work is supported by an extensive network of volunteers within a regional and county committee structure. Each county has an access and bridleways officer (CABO) and many have assistants at district level. There is so much work to be done to secure more, and better, equestrian access for the future, and we are keen to work with others to achieve our goals. 

Our affiliated equestrian access groups are a vital part of the work we do, helping us to defend, extend and promote equestrian rights of way.

Our access and rights of way work seeks to defend, extend and promote a safer, more easily accessible off-road network for all. We work towards meeting the aims of the horse industry strategy, particularly aim five:

Increase access to off-road riding and carriage driving increasing provision of off-road equestrian routes and an effective network of public rights of way is a huge concern amongst many horse owners and riders.

Benefits of affiliating

We worked hard in 2013 to design a new and impressive benefits package to offer all of our existing and new groups. When you join, you can look forward to receiving a shiny new affiliation pack in the post. It contains lots more details on the benefits your group will have in return for your affiliation fee and support. 

In your pack you will find: 

• A copy of your signed application form for your records. 
• Inspiring postcards. 
• Information about access training days (these are continuously updated on our website).    
• Information on your public liability insurance (when you affiliate with us, your group will automatically receive public liability insurance with an indemnity limit of £10,000,000, arranged via South Essex Insurance Brokers Ltd (SEIB). The policy will provide cover for equestrian activities that are arranged by your group. If you are unsure if a particular event would be covered please contact SEIB on 01708 850000 for clarification).
• Information on exclusive EAG discounts.

What we expect from our Equestrian Access Groups

Working towards a common goal
Affiliation means a close association. Our aim is that affiliated groups work as closely as possible with their BHS CABO in carrying out rights of way work which requires the group’s local knowledge. 

An affiliated group must share our general aims on rights of way: preserving, maintaining and improving the rights of way network for riders and carriage drivers, and maintaining good working relationships with other groups and individuals.

In order to ensure that we work to a consistently common goal, we expect our groups to: 

(i) Work within the law to maintain and improve legal and permissive access to the countryside for horse riders and carriage drivers.

(ii) Encourage amicable relationships with central and local government, with owners and occupiers of land and with other user groups, while insisting upon observance of and compliance with the law by all concerned, including equestrians. 

(iii) Support the involvement of individual horse riders and carriage drivers in generating interest and sympathy of access providers. 

(iv) Adhere to our published policies. If this is not possible they will list the reasons(s) why and submit the list to their CABO for the area for consideration. 

We reserve the right to disaffiliate any group found not to satisfy these requirements.

Affiliation requirements

To affiliate a group, you must meet the following conditions:

1. That during the period of affiliation at least one member of your group (preferably the chairman or secretary) is a gold member of The British Horse Society. 

2. That you have discussed your intention to affiliate with your BHS CABO, and that they have indicated their support on your application form.

3. That your group pays their affiliation fee annually (currently £40), in March.

4. That your group informs our access and rights of way department of all events they are organising, including any bridleways clearances, in writing (an email to access@bhs.org.uk is acceptable) no later than ten working days before the event is due to take place. This is a requirement for your public liability insurance.

Group structure and business

We recognise that many groups are small and run on a relatively informal basis. However, in order to be eligible for affiliation we advise you to adopt certain practices. These are:

(i) Officers
Your group should have a chairman, secretary, and treasurer. Other posts, such as a vice-chairman, events organiser, newsletter editor and others, are at the discretion of the group.

(ii) Meetings
These need not be frequent but should be regular. Reports to your membership should contain information on what is being done in the name of the group, what projects and events are proposed for the immediate future, what successes have been achieved, and problems encountered.

(iii) Subscriptions
These should be set at a level which does not put members off joining, while aiming to cover the expenses of the group. There should be a clearly communicated and simple method of collection of subscriptions. Proper records should be kept showing what money was received, and how this money was used. Membership records must be sent to us on the spreadsheet we provide. 

(iv) Aims
The aims of a group should be clearly stated at the head of its constitution. These could embrace the protection, maintenance and improvement of equestrian routes and the establishment of co-operative relationships with others, both of landowners/farmers/local authorities and fellow path user bodies such as ramblers, cyclists and trail-riders. 

(v) Choose a legal structure for your business. It's not mandatory to register your group as an unincorporated association and doesn't cost anything to set up. If your group starts making a profit then you'll need to pay Corporation Tax and file a Company Tax Return. You can find out more information about registering your Bridleway Group as an Unincorporated association on the Gov.uk website.

Functions of an Equestrian Access Group

Local knowledge

Your group should build up a thorough knowledge of the equestrian routes in the area it serves. This can be achieved through social rides, or more serious ventures, to record length, direction and condition of local routes. 

Knowledge of the definitive map and how the actual terrain differs from this is helpful. Knowledge of the law and of semi-legal matters should also be one of your group’s aims. You should foster an amicable relationship with county councils and other bodies. We offer training, covering all aspects of this work, which is free to members of BHS-affiliated groups. We can also arrange for your information to be published or promoted through our Ride UK and EMAGIN websites.

Bridleway clearance

Bridleway clearance is often a major part of the work of an affiliated group. 

You should keep proper records of the names and addresses of your clearance party members and the date the clearance took place.

You must notify us in writing of any events you are holding, and if you are clearing a bridleway, you must also notify your county access and bridleways Officer. 

Our insurers require that you do not use any equipment with motorised parts such as a chainsaw. If a member of your clearance party has certificates that allow them to use a chainsaw or similar equipment, this must be discussed directly with the insurers.

Care should be taken to ensure the necessary permission is obtained from the highway authority. Some councils are prepared to authorise an group as their agent for maintenance and clearing work. It should be clearly understood what is expected of you in these cases, and the limits you agree with the authority should not be exceeded. 

A risk assessment should be carried out prior to any event, function or clearance party. 

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