The BHS would like to thank the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) for commissioning and publishing the study and subsequent report on the analysis of the equine industry in Northern Ireland which you can read here. This report clearly highlights the extensive industry that exists and the future potential for areas that can be developed. Safe off-road access for equestrians is an area which needs greatly increased provision, and we hope will be fuelled by this report. Since November 2010, 315 horses have died and 43 people have lost their lives in road incidents involving horses across the UK. Therefore, securing safe places to ride off-road has never been so important.
In England horse riders have access to only 22% of public rights of way and carriage drivers have access to only 5%. In Wales horse riders have access to only 11% of public rights of way and carriage drivers have access to only 6%. In Scotland equestrians have a right of responsible access over most land, however much access is prevented due to obstructions such as locked gates. In Northern Ireland horse riders have access to only 0.1% of the public rights of way network and rely crucially on access to beaches, forestry or permissive routes, therefore horses are mostly ridden on the road. There are solutions such as through inclusion of equestrians in all plans and developments, and incentives for landowners to open agreed access to walkers, cyclists and horse riders on their land, therefore increasing the off-road access available is possible with these considerations. The BHS therefore work hard to educate motorists on responsible driving through its ‘Dead or Dead Slow’ campaign, protect the access that exists in Northern Ireland when it is threatened and open new access where possible such as The BHS toll ride in Greyabbey, forestry, and most recently the pleasure rides at Mount Stewart National Trust Estate, where horses returned to the estate for the first time since 1973.
Northern Ireland would also benefit from more multi-user routes so that equestrians can access more of the safe off-road network that is presently available for the majority of walkers and cyclists. Through the BHS representation on the National Outdoor Recreation Forum, involvement with Outdoor Recreation NI, and partnership working with local authorities and landowners, we work to ensure equestrians are included in all access proposals. We ask and encourage all landowners and parties involved in access proposals, renewals and subsequent agreements to include equestrians where it is safe and practical to do so. Through our close work with the Ramblers, Cycling UK and other organisations that represent user-groups and landowners, we work together to educate users on the responsible use of access and rights of way. If permits are to be used to monitor use, they should be applied fairly to all users.
To gain advice or support on opening a new route or including equestrians on your land, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02476 840515.
For information on the BHS in Ireland contact email@example.com.