A new free mapping system was launched by the British Horse Society (BHS) at its National Access Conference in Bath on Sunday (23 September).

The Equestrian Mapping and Geographical Information Network (EMAGIN) will allow riders to look up bridleways and BHS events in their area.

Members of the public currently have to phone or e-mail the BHS for information, but if more funding is secured the system may be launched online with aerial and satellite photography.

The society currently receives between 10 and 15 calls per month requesting route information.

Heather Holmes of the BHS said the system has already proved useful during the foot-and-mouth outbreak, enabling the society to view what events it was staging around the restriction zones.

“It’s an incredibly powerful tool,” said Miss Holmes. “More than 3,000 digital Ordnance Survey maps have been uploaded to the system and ‘sewn’ together to form one large map.”

She said EMAGIN overlays BHS images and statistics on top of this map, so data can be seen in its geographical context.

“It works like layering several sheets of tracing paper on top of one another,” she said. “We can then see area boundaries and distance-related data that could, for example, show us how many members live within a 100-mile radius of a certain route, or how many equestrian bed and breakfast establishments there are in an area.”

The initiative was originally unveiled at the society’s AGM two years ago (news,
23 June 2005), but an £8,115 grant last June from Awards for All England has enabled the project to go mobile with portable technology.

Retired BHS volunteer Brenda Wickham from Chalfont St Peter said the system would be “of enormous benefit” to anyone planning to use Ride UK routes. She added that the system was used in the development of the 53-mile Sea Horse Ride that has just been opened between Talacre and Glyndyfrdwy in Wales.

To find out where you can ride in your area (tel: 01926 707 812).

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (27 September, ’07)