British Horse Society president Noel Edmonds has called for change in the society at the BHS Annual General Meeting at London’s Saddlers’ Hall. With only a tiny percentage of horse owners currently being members of the BHS, Edmonds encouraged the society to think about its role in the future.

“More than four million people in Britain were associated with horses and riding and the BHS membership was only just over 2% of them, with 97% not joining the BHS,” he explained.

He asked the audience at the BHS General Meeting whether the society was prepared to be different, controversial and inclusive, even if that meant making some enemies along the way. Introducing children in cities to riding and embracing celebrity culture were two topics he addressed. “This is a great opportunity for us,” he said. “I want to propose we think long and hard about change.”

Nevertheless, BHS chairman Patrick Print was at pains to point out the society’s “tremendous achievements” during the past year, including the boost of some 2,400 new members, compared to just 336 in 2004.

Mr Print, a Fellow of the BHS, highlighted the increasing numbers of students taking BHS exams and the work the BHS had done with the British Equestrian Federation on the United Kingdom Coaching Certificate (UKCC), as well as the success of the BHS Safety Department’s Road Safety CD-Rom.

“The review undertaken by the MoD, with the very active co-operation of the society, to minimise the dangers posed to horses and riders by low-flying helicopters culminated in a reduction by the RAF in the number of low-level helicopter sortees,” he said.

Print shared Edmond’s commitment to move the society forwards saying: “We must do better, not because we are bad but because only a constant commitment to improving standards befits a society with the history and position of the BHS.

“The way we relate to each other, the way we treat our examination students, the way we hold ourselves out to the wider community of equestrian organisations — all of these and many other aspects of our work need constant attention, honest self-assessment and rigorous action to improve performance if, in 25 years’ time, my successor is to look back on a quarter of a century of the uninterrupted excellence and high achievement by the BHS.”