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Ireland | Our Equestrian Access Work

BHS Ireland is limited in its work to improve and extend safe off-road access for equestrians to Northern Ireland only. This is due to the fact that The British Horse Society as a charity can only lobby for change in British led governments. BHS Ireland does work to promote existing safe off-road riding and carriage driving throughout Ireland and any new opportunities that arise.

Download our toolkit for access and planning for everyone:

Northern Ireland

Access to safe off road routes and access in Northern Ireland is sadly extremely limited compared to Britain, however, the places that do exist are in some stunning locations. From the picturesque toll ride around Grey Abbey estate and hack around Tollymore Forest Park in Co.Down to the miles of flat sand on the stunning causeway coast, there are places for you to escape the busy roads.

BHS Ireland and the Ulster Rural Riders Association (a BHS Affiliated Bridleway Group) work hard to protect Northern Ireland’s access and are your voice when it comes under threat at a national level. They avail of any opportunities that arise to increase existing or open new access, and would welcome support from all over Northern Ireland to aid them on their work with this.

Riding Out in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has very few safe off-road places to ride or carriage drive, however BHS Ireland has been working to improve that.

However you enjoy the outdoors, please watch and share this short video:

Current Off-Road Access Provision in Northern Ireland

Download our list of the current off-road access provision in Northern Ireland. 

If you are aware of any access that is not included, please let us know by emailing

Consultations & Lobbying in Northern Ireland

The British Horse Society Ireland has submitted its response to the Northern Ireland Executive Consultation on the Draft Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland - January 2022

The British Horse Society Ireland welcomes the draft Environment Strategy setting out Northern Ireland’s environmental priorities for the future. The Strategy includes delivery of a healthy and accessible landscape that everyone can connect with and enjoy which includes access to outdoor recreation and natural space. The benefits of countryside access and horse riding not only to physical health but also to mental health and wellbeing are well proven. Increasing and enhancing access supports the Government’s aims to connect people with the environment, to improve health and wellbeing, including more remote and rural areas.

Whilst it is important to protect the access that exists in Northern Ireland which critically links with the historic environment, our work to ensure there are greatly increased safe places for the next generation of equestrians to access outdoors remains of paramount importance. We hope that this strategy will recognise equestrians and multiuser access as a fundamental part of the strategy.

  • Equestrians have access to less than 1% of public rights of way in NI.
  • There are not enough places for horses to be ridden or carriage driven safely off road.
  • Sadly, 4140 incidents have been reported to the British Horse Society since 2010.
  • In 2020 there were 46 horses killed on rural roads across the UK, 118 horses and 130 riders injured as a result of a collision with a vehicle.
  • There are an estimated 34,250 horses in Northern Ireland, over 70% of which are kept for recreational purposes.
  • Any new public access provision should be made available for all non motorised users, including horse riders, unless there is a fundamental reason not to do so.

 BHS Ireland submits response to the Department Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Northern Ireland - The provision of access for outdoor recreation in Northern Ireland (2021).

November 2021 - Lobby activity and call for public engagement to ask Legislative Assembly Members to ensure Horse Riding is included in the Northern Ireland Greenways Strategy, requesting any access created out of the Greenways Strategy (2016) to provide for horse riders and carriage drivers, and not just walkers and cyclists.

More information here.

"March 2021 -" ahead of existing : BHS Ireland submits response to the Department Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Northern Ireland - The provision of access for outdoor recreation in Northern Ireland (2021).

Protecting what we have

Existing access, like anywhere in the UK, can come under threat at any time. From proposed changes in policies or rules by local authorities to land developments, poor maintenance, ending in permissive agreements or new legislation, BHS Ireland is here to react quickly, and to protect what we have. In 2009 BHS engaged with fellow local equestrians and local authorities to protect and keep your rights of access to the beaches on the North Coast.

Extending access

Extending, increasing, or just opening up new access to somewhere for equestrians usually involves negotiation, sharing, and funds. BHS Ireland has been very successful in recent years in opening toll rides, including equestrian access and agreeing temporary access to routes for organised rides.

Promoting safe off-road routes and using them

BHS work hard to protect what we have, and encourage safe, responsible use of our routes, particularly those which are multiuser. Our range of free advisory leaflets online (link) may be of interest to you.

There are two BHS Affiliated Bridleway groups in Northern Ireland who work to increase awareness of our need for safe routes for riders and carriage drivers and responsible use by all users of public access areas and routes.

Contact Us

If you have any concerns or queries over Northern Ireland Access matters, please contact Susan Spratt or the Access Team at HQ, and we will do our best to help you.

If you wish to get more involved in the improvement of access in Northern Ireland, please contact Susan Spratt.

For further information and the latest news visit BHS Ireland.

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