The armed forces rarely receive accolades at equestrian events, but that changed last week when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was honoured at the British Horse Society (BHS) annual awards in London.

The MoD received the society’s safety award for its research in the wake of the Heather Bell tragedy. Mrs Bell died from head injuries in 2003 after being thrown from her horse, who had been spooked by a low-flying Chinook helicopter.

As a result of Mrs Bell’s death, the MoD launched “Operation Bright Eyes”, an RAF-led project that included research on the wearing of fluorescent clothing in areas where there might be low-flying aircraft.

This led to 1,300 sets of high-visibility clothing being given away by the MoD to members of the public, better detail on low-flying exercise from the MoD (tel: 0800 515554) and a facility for show organisers to request avoidance for specific events.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be here among all these deserving winners,” said Air Commodore Dick Garwood. “I hope we can find more money next year to enable us to give away more of these kits.”

BHS award winners

ACCESS AWARD (For the BHS member who has done most for equestrian access): Avril Sleeman

ACCESS AWARD (For the public agency which has done most for equestrian access): Ministry of Defence, Fylingdale

ACCESS AWARD (For the Metropolitan Borough most active in opening up equestrian routes): North Tyneside Council / The Waggonways Project

ACCESS AWARD (For the local Authority/National Park most active in opening up equestrian routes): Buckinghamshire County Council

THE BODYNFOEL AWARD (For the person who has done the most to promote The British Horse Society): Virginia Scott-Watson

LEO HARRIS AWARD (For outstanding service to the Riding Clubs movement): Mrs Ann Foss

SAFETY AWARD (For the organisation who has done most to promote equestrian safety): The Ministry of Defence

BHS SILVER STIRRUP (In recognition of support for young riders): Mrs Mary Walker

TRAINERS AWARD (For the person who has made an outstanding contribution to equestrian training): Ian Woodhead

WELFARE AWARD (For contribution to equine welfare over many years): Roy and Margaret Raikes-May

WELFARE AWARD (For extraordinary assistance by an outside body to Equine Welfare): Shane Dickman, Kent Police

WELFARE AWARD (For best achievement to advance welfare of all equines): The Animal Health Trust

WELFARE AWARD (For an outstanding contribution to the well-being of equines): Harry Paviour

CHAIRMAN’S COMMENDATION (For Outstanding Performance by a Local Committee of The British Horse Society): The Organising Committee of the European TREC Championships 2006

TARQUIN TROPHY (For significant contribution to the cause of equestrian safety): Mrs Alison Edwards and Mr Richard Holt