The British Horse Society (BHS) has today launched a new campaign called ‘Keep Britain Riding’ to safeguard the long-term prospects of the equestrian industry, and to protect and nurture the special horse/human bond for future generations.
This comes after a major threat emerged following a nationwide survey by the BHS, which revealed that over 250 riding schools have closed since 2018, as well as the discovery that proprietors are either retiring and/or unable to recruit enough qualified coaches and yard staff to run their centres.
As a result of these closures, more than 1.5 million riding lessons have now been lost per year. That is 1.5 million fewer opportunities for children and adults to build that indescribable bond with horses; a bond that so many people would be lost without.
As the lifeblood of equestrian participation, riding schools are an essential part of the future of equestrianism. Without them, the professional sport and recreational riding could both be severely impacted.
James Hick, Chief Executive at The British Horse Society, is hugely concerned: “We need to address the decline in riding centres for a number of reasons. Firstly, simply so more people from more backgrounds can experience the benefits of riding. Secondly, most recreational and professional riders will start their journey as a child in a riding school. And thirdly, we know that good horse care and welfare is reliant on a thriving, knowledgeable and experienced workforce.”
While the aim of Keep Britain Riding is to generate funds and reverse this trend to keep Britain’s equestrianism thriving, the campaign also celebrates the unique horse/human relationship and all the benefits it brings. The BHS is encouraging anyone who has experienced the true wonder of horses to share their photos and videos of what these animals have meant to them using the hashtag #horsehumanbond.
Donations are also needed to expand The Society’s activity around increased diversity, as James explains: “The horse/human relationship can be transformational for people’s physical and mental wellbeing, no matter their background or experience. We have seen this first-hand here at the BHS, particularly through our Changing Lives through Horses programme, which has just registered its 2000th participant. This scheme is critical as we campaign to make riding accessible to everyone.
“This programme provides just one example of how truly precious the bond with horses is and it’s frightening to think that, with every day that goes by, people are losing the opportunity to experience what that relationship feels like. In 2018, there were 1,747 riding schools in the UK. Today there are 1,497 – or less.”
The BHS is also involving a number of its ambassadors in the campaign, including its President Martin Clunes who comments: “Horses are part of my everyday life – their beauty, bravery, strength and companionship constantly inspires me. The thought that future generations may not have the same opportunity to know the joys that horses can bring truly saddens me.”
To learn more about the BHS’s Keep Britain Riding campaign and how you can help the charity to make sure the equestrian industry continues to thrive, visit bhs.org.uk/KeepBritainRiding.
To donate to the BHS and their Changing Lives through Horses programme, visit www.bhs.org.uk/clth.