In the third part of our interview series designed to introduce BHS members to their local committee, we meet Alison Heath. Alison became County Access and Bridleways Officer (CABO) for the Buckinghamshire committee in October 2012…
Name: Alison Heath
Lives: Hogshaw (a hamlet north west of Aylesbury)
Age (a ballpark please!): Young in spirit but not in years!
Family: We have three children and eight grandchildren, with another on the way. One of my grandchildren, Zoe, is a keen rider and competing very successfully at dressage - she is already working at elementary level!
Occupation: I am a retired librarian, but have just published a book. I am still active in the voluntary world, editing two newsletters for people with cochlear implants (I am a CI user myself, you see).
Tell us about… your first pony: My first ponies were rather wild and frequently ran away with myself and my sister, but we did go hunting and to Pony Club camps.
My first horse was Llarnny, a Welsh x Arab who I bought with the first £100 I ever had. The money was a gift from my grandmother, who intended it to be kept and used in an emergency, but at 19 I had other ideas! Llarnny was a very 'go go' horse, and went with me to Oxford University where he was lent to the university horsemanship club which I helped to run. As I had a severe hearing loss at this time, he helped me to break down many barriers when I met other students who had a shared interest in horses. Llarnny carried on until he was 34, and in his somewhat calmer old age was a lovely safe mount for my small children, who learnt to ride on him.
We have other horses, most of whom we have kept until the end of their days. When I retired I bought Jo Jo who, though I didn't know it when I bought her, was a failed hunter. She was very nervous and ran away every now and then. My attempts to turn her in to a dressage horse were not successful, but I was devastated when she died after 13 years as my companion.
…the first fall you can remember: I really can't remember - I must have bounced!
…the first rosette you remember winning: I won a prize for coming first in a treasure hunt.
…your horsey highlight: Hunting in Ireland on a 17hh horse and falling off at every ditch we jumped. Fortunately we were riding on boggy peat land which cushioned my falls.
…your most embarrassing horsey moment: When I finished up in a dressage test with my back to the judge!
…your current horse(s): Leo, a very sweet tempered piebald who I have been bringing on for dressage. I bought him two years ago, when he was a very inexperienced six year old.
Do you compete? What is your preferred discipline? I compete locally in dressage competitions.
What’s your favourite horsey activity? Hacking in the summer.
What’s your equine ambition? Win a Preliminary test!
Share your yard secrets, please… what are your best time saving tips? What about money saving tips? I use very thick rubber matting, cut into smaller sections to make it easy to handle. As I don't need much bedding, the matting is both time saving and money saving after the initial outlay.
Tell us about your involvement with the BHS… what is your role on the committee? I'm the County Access and Bridleways Officer (CABO).
What does your role involve? Generally keeping an eye open, with the help of the other access officers, for any problems on the bridleways and hopefully trying to open more tracks for horse riders.
How long have you been on the committee, and how long in this role? Since October 2012.
How did you get involved with the BHS? Through trying to open a disused railway as an official bridleway - I was directed to the BHS for help and advice. The railway is still closed, thought it was definitely used as a bridleway for many years before it went into private ownership.
What’s your favourite part of the role? I'm not sure yet as I'm still getting in to the role.
What are your plans for the year ahead? There are many threats to the bridleways in Buckinghamshire - wind farms in the north and the projected HS2 and East West railway threatening to cut through many bridleways. We need to find out more about these matters and plan a way forward to ensure access is not damaged in any way and hopefully improved. Of course attempts need to be made to see if there are any opportunities for opening more tracks as officially recognised bridleways - I am trying!
Thanks, Alison! Next time, we meet Alison Clayton, Assistant CABO and newsletter editor.