THE Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) prestigious Sanctuary Awards took place virtually on 16 March 2021. RAF Shawbury’s Be Seen Be Safer horse rider awareness campaign was awarded a highly commended in the Social Value, Community and Heritage Award category.
The MOD’s Sanctuary Awards are organised by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to champion and celebrate the work of our people in Defence-wide projects.
Squadron Leader Kim Leach, who leads the campaign is based at RAF Shawbury which is the home of Number 1 Flying Training School. The School trains helicopter aircrew from all 3-Services in preparation for operating on front-line helicopters. Flying training takes place in Low Flying Area 9, which covers all of Shropshire and the borders of adjacent counties. As well as being ideal for flying training, this area is also highly populated with equine businesses and horse riders.
Squadron Leader Leach said: “With over 130 flights a day, our aircrew do sometimes encounter riders. When I was first posted to RAF Shawbury, I was surprised by the number of complaints from horse riders. My research revealed that many riders were unaware of the safety benefits of wearing high visibility kit and, that our aircrew had difficulty in spotting riders if they were not wearing it.”
This research led to the launch of the Be Seen Be Safer campaign which in addition to building relationships with the riding community also had these three aims:
- To reduce the number of low flying complaints from within Low Flying Area 9
- To increase the number of members of the equestrian community wearing high visibility clothing and equipment
- To ensure all RAF Shawbury based aircrew were trained in measures to avoid equestrian disturbance when low flying.
To achieve this, Squadron Leader Leach worked closely with The British Horse Society and the aircrew at RAF Shawbury to trial different items of high visibility kit. Funding was approved to purchase high visibility kit to distribute to Pony Clubs and local riding groups. In addition, educational events were held such as Rider Awareness Days; local riding groups were invited to the base to meet the aircrew, get airborne and experience the challenges that aircrew face in identifying riders without high visibility kit.
The Station Commander of RAF Shawbury, Group Captain Phil Wadlow said: “Feedback and evaluation of this campaign has proven its success. RAF Shawbury continues to work with the RAF’s Air Safety Centre and The British Horse Society. We are delighted that our campaign has been shared with other units to ensure that our safety message is spreading throughout the country to create a safer environment for all.”
Alan Hiscox, Director of Safety at The British Horse Society said “We are very pleased to have been working with RAF Shawbury for several years so that riders can understand the efforts that RAF pilots make to avoid flying over them. The wearing of high visibility clothing makes such a difference and increases the safety of every horse and rider. It is fantastic to see the success of Be Seen Be Safer campaign being recognised with this award and we look forward to continuing this partnership with RAF Shawbury”.
To find out more information on Common incidents while horse riding and how to report them, follow the link below: