‘Riding schools are our lifeblood’: new campaign to Keep Britain Riding

  • A new campaign aims to help “safeguard the future of equestrianism” and “protect the horse-human bond” for future generations.

    The British Horse Society’s (BHS) Keep Britain Riding campaign has been created in response to the society’s nationwide survey, which revealed that more than 250 riding schools have closed since 2018. The results highlighted that the most common reason for the decline is owners retiring, or riding schools struggling to recruit enough staff (news, 9 March).

    The campaign aims to raise funds and celebrate the horse-human relationship and the benefits it brings, and increase diversity in the industry. Equestrians are being encouraged to share photos and videos of their horses and what they mean to them using the hashtag #horsehumanbond.

    Money raised will support the BHS alternative education programme Changing Lives Through Horses (CLTH), which connects young people who have special needs and may be either permanently excluded from school, or at risk of exclusion in its widest sense, and those who are not in employment, education or training. The sessions take place at riding schools, and without riding schools these sessions could not run.

    CLTH head Alison Blackmore told H&H it is hoped the campaign can help introduce horses to a new audience.

    “There is growing awareness of the benefits to health and wellbeing horses can offer, and through the new campaign and CLTH, we’re bringing children and young people, and the people who work with them, into riding schools and showing what they can offer,” she said.

    “We are looking to communities that may have never seen themselves having a place in riding schools and looking at how we can support those different groups and welcome them.”

    BHS chief executive James Hick told H&H it is “absolutely critical” to support riding schools and address the decline in numbers.

    “Riding schools are our lifeblood, and the starting point for more than 90% of people starting riding and connection with horses,” he said. “It is critical from an education, welfare and care perspective that we have a really well-trained, knowledgeable workforce that is able to share and pass on learnings on how best to keep horses.

    “There has never been a greater demand for riding; on average there are 50 people on a waiting list at most riding schools. We know that around 75% are struggling to recruit appropriately trained staff, and that is really hampering the ability for riding schools to operate efficiently. Therefore we need to support that and from a BHS perspective, we have created the career transition fund, now in its second year, which is supporting individuals to undertake their stage two and three qualifications.”

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