A dressage star and a sports broadcaster are backing a new safety initiative aiming to protect horses and riders.

The British Horse Society (BHS) today (17 July) launched its Ride Safe Award, which aims to give riders confidence and knowledge to ride out safely.

Riders who take the qualification will be given practical guidance on how to protect themselves in situations they may come across in the saddle, whether on the road, a bridleway or even the beach.

The launch follows a 29% increase in accidents involving riders on the roads in the past year — 426 incidents, resulting in one rider death and the death of 21 horses.

Multi-medalled teenage dressage rider Phoebe Peters said the award is a “really great idea”.

“It’s great to make riders of all levels aware of their safety, whether they’re in the school or out on the road or in fields,” she said.

“Unfortunately I don’t ride out on the road as much as I would like to, as I think it’s really good for the horse and the rider, but when I am lucky enough to, it is really important to think about the safety of you and your horse.”

Keen hacker and journalist Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes also spoke favourably of the award.

“I do most of my riding on the roads, I don’t have land to ride on or a school,” she said. “I’m quite close to London and it’s getting increasingly busy and dangerous where I ride.

“I really hope the award will help improve awareness of riders on the road. We need to do everything we can as riders to make riding on the roads safe.

“If learning how to manoeuvre properly helps and learning to wear the right kit helps then that’s just a no-brainer, it’s up to us to make our lives safer on the roads.”

Pheobe added: “I think it’s good to have people like me and Lizzie to try and promote the award because it’s obviously really important for riders.”

The BHS is encouraging all riders to take the award.

Alan Hiscox, BHS director of safety, said it was “probably the most important qualification that the BHS will launch”.

“The start of this was over a year ago when we launched our Dead Slow campaign,” he said.

“The BHS is really working hard to educate drivers and influence their behaviours. Ride Safe now comes in to influence and educate riders on how they can keep safe, not just on a road but on bridleways — what to do if you meet a dog on a bridleway, what to do if you have to pass a wind turbine, or a confrontation and what to do in an accident, even beach riding.

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“It will cover the whole scope of riding and riding safely.”

The Ride Safe Award replaces the BHS’s Riding Road Safety Test and can be taken by any rider aged over 11.

The course costs £95 and includes training, a high-vis tabard and horse hire for the day.