British Horse Society’s new honorary vice-president, Robin Cook, congratulated volunteers who dedicate their spare time to the good of horses, when he attended the BHS November Awards ceremony last week.
The annual awards celebrate the tremendous work undertaken by unpaid helpers to benefit horses and riders in the areas of access and rights of way, road safety, long service, young rider support, training, promotion of the BHS and work overseas.
Speaking after the presentations, Robin, who took up riding as a hobby in later life, acknowledged that “horse owners do not keep horses in their spare time. If you have horses, the rest of your life is what you do in your spare time”.
However, volunteer numbers are dwindling across the equestrian world and this causes growing concerns in an industry which relies heavily on unpaid work — so much so that the issue was a subject of discussion at the recent British Riding Clubs conference.
Emma Spivey, head of British Riding Clubs, says: “A historical lack of volunteers at the BRC National Championships forced us to ask every riding club that qualified for this year’s event to donate one helper to help for half a day. We think it is likely that this may become a matter of course in the future.”
Individual riding clubs are increasingly being forced to insist that all members support the club in some way during the season.
“Some clubs have made it compulsory for all members to help at, for example, two shows a year, or the individual will not have their membership renewed the following year. Others have a system in place whereby they have increased their membership fees, but anyone who helps gets the “helpers fee” refunded,” according to Emma.
BHS November Awards 2003
- Trainers Award: Jane Goldsmith
- Access Award, BHS member: Ann Fraser
- Access Award, public agency: Forestry Commission- Wales
- Access Award, local Authority/National Park: Hertsmere Borough Council
- Access Award, Carriage Driving Facility: Dyfnant & Vyrnwy Horse Riders & Carriage Drivers Assn
- The Elizabeth Kirk Award (bridleways): Angela Yeomans
- Welfare Award: Claire Aldridge
- The Bodynfoel Award (BHS promotion): Mark Kendrick
- Leo Harris Award (riding clubs): Nick and Jean Fincham
- BRC Long Service Awards: Mary Barrass, Janet Spens, Mollie Abraham
- Safety Award: The John Martin Group
- Sefton Awards (safety): Lynne Church, Rita Bayliss and Glenys Frankland
- The BHS Silver Stirrup (support for young riders): Elise Pilkington Trust
- The Overseas Award: Jane Garcia