TV star and horseman Martin Clunes is to be the next president of the British Horse Society (BHS).

Martin speaking at BETA yesterday said he was “thrilled, baffled and overwhelmed” by the appointment but that he was “really looking forward” to taking up the challenge.

He will take on the role when current president, Desi Dillingham, steps down on 1 June.

Famous for his appearances in Men Behaving Badly and Doc Martin, his documentary series Horsepower last year introduced him to the equestrian public.

He keeps 12 horses and his wife Philippa and daughter Emily also ride.

“Goodness knows how I am expected to follow Desi,” he said. “‘Larger than life’ is a cliché but it is well-known that, when she left her native Canada, the country teetered on the brink for some time. In fact, I think it still teeters occasionally, mostly at weekends and on public holidays, when it recollects the talent it so carelessly allowed to escape to the UK.

“It is an enormous honour. I have so much to learn and with the Society changing so much in recent years I hope that we can grow together, capitalising on the vitality, enthusiasm and passion of its membership.

Animal welfare is a passion of mine and I am really looking forward to working with the BHS and all its members to retain the momentum for liveliness and continuous improvement.

“If, when I become president, I can help the Society alleviate the suffering of a single horse whose trust has been betrayed by humans, then I will have done some good. If tens of thousands of people join me, that good will be magnified.

“Above all, I hope I can help spread something of the joy, which comes from associating with horses to those, especially the young, who otherwise would never make their acquaintance.”

BHS chairman, Dr Phil Wadey, said: “I realised, from the moment I met Martin at the Royal International Horse Show last July, that he was the best ambassador the horse world didn’t yet have. I was delighted when he agreed to become our next president.”