The British Horse Society has expressed its great sadness at the news that, following a brave battle with cancer, Helen Barton-Smith BHSI passed away aged 49 on 27 June 2015.
Helen was a lifelong horsewoman and initially trained for her BHS exams at Wellington Riding Centre in Hampshire before embarking on her equestrian career which included both teaching and competing.
In 2003, Helen and her parents Shaun and Barbara, purchased a former dairy farm at Gillingham in Dorset and undertook to transform this into what was to become the renowned Pippin Equestrian Centre. Helen immediately engaged with the BHS to gain approval as a riding, training and exam centre and livery yard, something she was very proud of.
BHS Regional Development Officer, Julie Garbutt, said: "I remember when Helen phoned me to say she was opening a riding school and would I go and visit as she wanted to be more involved with the BHS.
"From that day forward her engagement with us was never ending. From hosting and presenting training days, holding exams, getting involved as a volunteer and an assessor, Helen was always ready to give help and support tho the BHS. She was a true ambassador for the Society and will be greatly missed by all of us".
Helen's exceptional talent as an instructor saw many children who started to ride at Pippin progress onto owning their own horses and ponies, competing and taking qualifications on the road to their own equestrian careers. She did not confine her teaching to the riding centre but would be found on many a weekend at a local show with a group of children from Pippin taking part in their first show jumping, dressage or eventing competition.
For the younger and more novice riders, Helen made learning to ride fun while encouraging the more able riders to achieve greater goals. She also coached the Gillingham School equestrian team to success at national championships.
Helen was also driven to further her own skills and passed her BHSI exam in 2006 and more recently her UKCC Level 3 as well as becoming a BHS Assessor. In 2014 she gained a teaching degree at Yeovil College University Centre and was also given the special award of Teacher of the Year.
Her equestrian passion was not confined to instructing. As a rider, she had many successes in eventing and dressage. The most notable of these was in 2009 whe she won the BHS Instructor's Challenge Final on her favourite horse Pippin Jazz.
At the time, Helen said: "It's not about winning the money [£1,000 first prize] but about competing at Royal Windsor. My Grandmother used to bring me here as a child and said that one day I would ride here - and I've done it!"
Following the closure of Pippin Equestrian Centre in 2014, Helen secured a job as Assistant Director of Riding at Stonar School in Wiltshire where she was set to nurture more young riding talent.
She was only there for a short period prior to having her illness diagnosed but in that time had made a 'huge impact' according to the school's Director of Riding, Darrell Scaife FBHS.
Earlier this year, in recognition of Helen's exceptional work in teaching young riders, the BHS renamed their own Silver Stirrup Award the Helen Barton-Smith Silver Stirrup Award. Helen was the recipient of this award in 2012, which is presented each year to an individual for meritorious work in support of young riders.
BHS Chief Executive Lynn Pertersen said: "Her devotion to family and friends was without equal and her trademark was her dedication to young people.
"Helen was sheer magic with young people of all ages and I will always be proud that someone of Helen's stature was committed to the BHS".