The British Horse Society has granted honorary fellowships to Ian Stark OBE (pictured), Captain Mark Phillip CVO, Stephen Clarke and Kenneth Clawson “in recognition of their outstanding coaching contributions to the equine industry.”

Until now, only two of the Society’s 54 fellows — Ferdi Eilberg and Christopher Bartle — were honorary, while the others had to sit a tough exam to gain what is the top equestrian qualification in Britain.

“The Honorary Fellowship is only awarded rarely and under exceptional circumstances to outstanding trainers who have coached riders to World, European or Olympic Championship standard,” says BHS Chairman Patrick Print, who is himself a Fellow of the society.

“The BHS is delighted to award the Honorary Fellowship to these four outstanding people, who need no introduction to the horse world in this country and abroad. It is interesting to note that all four were involved either as a coach or judge in the Athens Olympic Games last year.”

The link with the Olympics undoubtedly helped, but the BHS granted the fellowships to recognise “the level of achievement over many many years,” according to BHS Director of Communications, Oliver Wilson.

And indeed all four trainers have illustrious careers that span several decades. Captain Mark Phillips CVO achieved his first success some 40 years ago, when he was fourth at Burghley Horse Trials. His eventing history is studded with medals. He won gold and silver several times at the Olympics before he began training in 1988, when he opened the Mark Phillips Equestrian Centre in Scotland. He became chef d’equipe for the American eventing team in 1993 and has been instrumental in their victory at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez — the first gold the US team won in 28 years.

Ian Stark OBE also works with an elite team abroad. He coaches the Brazilian Olympic eventing team, and trains the Pony, Junior and Young riders teams in Britain. He became a BHS Instructor about 20 years ago and went on to compete in eventing at international level, landing a team gold medal at the European Championships in Luhmuhlen in 1999 and a team silver medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

The eventing world bagged a third honorary fellowship with Kenneth Clawson. A gifted show jumping trainer, Clawson coached pony, junior and young competitors before starting to work with event riders at the end of the Eighties. He became the show jumping coach of the British eventing team in 1997 and saw them through four European team and individual medals — including Leslie Law’s gold in Athens.

Like Clawson, Stephen Clarke also comes from a show jumping background and competed in show jumping and eventing before choosing to focus on dressage. He later became an international trainer, holding clinics in Britain and abroad, and has been an FEI official international judge for the past 10 years. Clarke has officiated at some of the most prestigious competitions held over the last five years, including the World Equestrian Games in Jerez and the Athens Olympics.

“These are really four of the most outstanding horse people in Britain,” says Wilson. “The BHS felt that it was time to recognise these great trainers for what they had done for the equestrian world.”

The BHS intends to present the trainers with their accolades at a major show in spring, but the plans have yet to be finalised.