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British Horse Society

File:The British Horse Society.jpg
British Horse Society logo

The British Horse Society (BHS) is a membership-based equine charity,[1] with a stated vision of "a society which provides a strong voice for horses and people and which spreads awareness through support, training and education". It currently has more than 71,000 members, with a further 34,000 members affiliated through a riding club, making it the largest equine membership club in the United Kingdom.[2] It is one of the 16 organisations which form part of the British Equestrian Federation.[3]



The BHS was founded in 1947 in the amalgamation of two organisations - the Institute of the Horse and Pony Club, and the National Horse Association of Great Britain.

British Riding Clubs

More than half a century ago several riding clubs in South East England approached the BHS about the provision of an affiliation scheme. The clubs wished to affiliate themselves to the main equestrian organisation in the UK, but wanted to continue to run their own affairs and maintain their autonomy. The affiliation scheme was set up on this basis - and remains similar to this day. Over the years, the number of affiliating clubs continued to grow, and they began to establish an identity together as a group, culminating in the name British Riding Clubs. There are now more than 430 affiliated clubs and 38,000 members.


The primary objectives of the BHS, as published in its Memorandum of Association, are:

  • To promote and facilitate the acquisition and distribution of the knowledge of the various arts and sciences connected with the horse and pony and the use and management thereof.


The President of the Society is Desi Dillingham.[4] The Patron of the Society is Her Majesty The Queen.[5]


BHS Exams

The BHS has an extensive and world-renowned system of examinations, including the Horse Owner's Certificates and Progressive Riding Tests (PRTs) which are aimed at the leisure rider, and the Stages exams which lead to various riding instructor's qualifications.

The BHS also maintains a Register of Instructors in the UK and around the world.

Access and Rights of Way

The BHS Access and Rights of Way department works to improve the bridleways network throughout England, Scotland and Wales. This work is supported by an extensive network of national committees and regional groups. The BHS is consulted about proposed legislation, government planning guidance, Definitive Maps and road schemes, and have influenced and continue to influence legislation.

The BHS took on the BMW car company over their decision to reassign the use of property owned by them, resulting in closure of an existing horse bridleway. The BHS challenged this decision by BMW in court and subsequently lost and were ordered to repay legal costs to BMW. The BHS refused to acknowledge the impartial legal decision of the judiciary and then sought donations from the public to pay the legal bills accumulated by BHS and those ordered to be repaid by the court to BMW. Some questioned the motives and ethics of BHS management in applying limited financial resources to causes of an indeterminate nature. The BHS's lack of recognition of the decision of the judiciary has also exposed the organisation to questions of competent business practices and ethics. The good intent of the BHS was recognised by many, as the continued loss of bridleways across the country has eroded the freedom of those participating in horseriding activities.[6]

The BHS attempted to mount a campaign to contest the freedom of general walkers and their dogs in the countryside and on common land where horse riding activities occur. To date this has not resulted in any definitive action, but the intent of the organisation has been well publicised.[7][8]


The BHS Safety Department promotes the ongoing improvement of horse and rider safety. This includes campaigning for recognition and safe conditions for riders on Britain's roads.

Education of motorists and riders is a high priority. The Riding and Road Safety test is taken by more than 4,000 candidates every year. This helps to educate riders in road safety and to minimise the risks involved when riding on the road.


BHS Welfare aims to prevent cases of cruelty and neglect through education. This is achieved through its network of welfare volunteers, advisory literature, and a team of experienced and dedicated staff who handle all your enquiries.

The great experience of BHS Welfare volunteers enables the Society to respond in an informed and sympathetic manner to reports of equine suffering and neglect, giving advice and guidance to horse owners on a wide range of topics. The majority of cases that our volunteers respond to relate to neglect rather than cruelty. Most cases can be resolved by educating horse owners.

As well as responding to welfare concerns, BHS Welfare lobbies government on a number of welfare-related issues; runs campaigns including the Ragwort Awareness Campaign; promotes responsible breeding through its close link with the BHS Horse and Pony Breeds Committee; works closely with other welfare organisations, and monitors the horses and ponies on the BHS's Re-home Scheme.

To help fund its vital work, BHS Welfare organises and runs Challenge Rides to Peru, Jordan, Iceland and Inner Mongolia.


Ministry of Defence

The BHS caused controversy in November 2006, by issuing an award to the U.K. Ministry of Defence for actions taken to improve the safety for horse riders in areas of the country used for low flight level aircraft training. The M.O.D. had previously been found directly responsible for the death of a novice horse rider and had been ordered to address their low flying policies as a result.

Some felt the award was ethically improper; particularly so since the BHS had used the name of the accident victim in promotional material without the consent of the family members.[9]

Noel Edmonds

In June 2006, the then President of the BHS, celebrity Noel Edmonds, severely criticised the BHS for failing to fulfill its fundamental aims; that of recruitment of the existing horse riding community to the organisation and positive promotion of the activity to potential new participants. The Chairman of the BHS, Patrick Print, attempted to mitigate Mr. Edmonds statements by quoting some recent activities the BHS had participated in - however, some of these activities were later found to be in themselves controversial; particularly the low flying campaign known as Operation Brighteyes. Noel Edmonds resigned from his position at the BHS a few months later.[10]


Recent issues of a BHS publication have carried articles on the controversial rollkur procedure (otherwise known as LDR or Hyperflection) debate. The BHS received letters of complaint from its membership and online petitions were created that expressed anger for the BHS' apparent lack of concern for the welfare of horses subject to the physically painful manouevre. Some individuals called for the resignation of the senior management of the BHS for bringing the organisations name into disrepute by promoting the activity. The BHS responded with dismissive and confrontational comments that angered the complaining members.[11]


External links

  1. REDIRECT Template:EW charity

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