The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) board is this week considering recommendations in a consultants’ report following a nationwide audit of equestrian facilities. But the British Horse Society (BHS) and the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) have expressed concern over the impact it might have on riding schools.
An insider who did not wish to be named, said: “This provides the BEF with a fantastic opportunity to link in with unaffiliated riders, but, if mishandled, it could widen the gap.”
Many riding schools often find themselves in competition with colleges, which receive tax breaks and government grants, while riding schools have to keep afloat independently.
The report follows a two-year “facilities audit”, funded to the tune of £23,000 by Sport England and run by Continuum Sport and Leisure, whose other work has largely been urban-, education- and football-focused.
As well as consulting the BEF’s member bodies, the project involved last year sending a questionnaire to more than 1,600 “facilities”, including colleges, riding schools and show centres. Pony Clubs and riding clubs were also sent the survey, apparently in the mistaken belief that they have their own premises.
The questionnaire asked about the activities hosted and taught; the age, race and gender of club members; on-site facilities; staff and member “development plans”; link-ups with local schools, and more.
Just 20% responded – although for this type of survey, this is said to be an above-average proportion.
BEF chief executive Andrew Finding says: “The report seeks to set out how we would like to encourage development of facilities by proprietors and supporters in the next 10 years.
“By no stretch of the imagination will it guarantee availability of funding or otherwise.”
The report will be made public only when the BEF board has approved it — this will be in late summer, pending scrutiny by the BEF general purpose and finance committee.
Andrew Finding adds: “We still have the concerns expressed by the ABRS and BHS to satisfy and there are many other things to tidy up before publication.”
He declined to specify how many questionnaires went to each type of establishment. But Horse & Hound contacted more than a dozen facilities, all of whom are linked to BEF member bodies, including several major riding schools. Only one recalled having seen the survey.