Western riders are being offered access to improved facilities and training via the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), putting them on an equal footing with disciplines such as dressage and show jumping.

The BEF has invited organisations including the Western Equestrian Society (WES) and American Quarter Horse Association UK (AQHA UK), to take up affiliate membership via British Reining.

“Our membership structure allows just one member body from a particular equestrian interest,” said a BEF spokesperson, “but we would like to encourage groups with similar interests to be represented by coming together — as the showing organisations are doing — or being affiliated via an existing member.”

Members of the western bodies that affiliate through British Reining (BR) would be able to take advantage of training grants for subsidised clinics, take part in the UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) or be trained by UKCC level III western coaches and use BEF approved training facilities.

BR chief executive David Brimson explained: “We’re aiming to get more representation for western riding. Each society would retain its autonomy and could put in requests for funding to meet its own needs.”

There are over 2,000 people actively involved in western riding in Britain, but only 130 are BR members. The WES has around 850 members and the AQHA UK 900.

The concept of a single voice for western riding has been welcomed in principle, though the societies have varied interests — AQHA UK majors on the promotion of the breed, while the WES organises instructional and competitive events for all breeds. BR focuses mainly on its western-style “dressage” discipline, but is spearheading a UKCC programme for general western riding skills at its basic levels.

WES chairman David Brindley said: “We agree that all organisations representing western riding should work together and we will put this to the membership at our AGM in April.”

But AQHA UK chairman David Teideman commented: “We are keen to be represented within the BEF, but we want all aspects of western equestrianism to be recognised.”