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With the likelihood of an election in June, the British Horse Society is calling on the next government to give consideration to the needs of the equestrian industry, and has requested meetings with the leaders of each of the three main parties, or their representatives.

William Hague is the only one who has responded so far and next Wednesday 2 May BHS Trustee Harry Greenway (himself a serving MP for nearly 20 years) and members of the BHS Parliamentary and Public Affairs Committee are to meet Tim Yeo, Shadow Agriculture Minister. They will be raising the following issues at the meeting:

Equestrian Qualifications
In order to address the lack of suitably qualified staff in riding establishments, the BHS calls on the next government to make it a requirement for riding instructors to hold recognised and established qualifications, and to recognise that the training for those qualifications should achieve parity of government funding with NVQs.

Taxation burden on riding establishments
The British Horse Society welcomes recognition at national level of the value of equestrianism to the rural economy, and the proposed help for farmers who want to diversify. The Society calls upon the next government to extend easement of the rating burden to existing riding establishments, in recognition of the educational value they offer.

Taxation burden on British breeding
The British Horse Society endorses the plea from the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association and other breed organisations that horse breeding should be zero rated on premises and land used for this purpose in order that the British horse breeding industry may receive similar benefit to horse breeding industries among our leading competitors in the EC. This would place horse breeding on the same basis as other forms of animal husbandry in Britain and other E C countries.

Access to safer off road riding
The British Horse Society calls upon the next government to put pressure onlocal authorities to fulfil their statutory duties with regard to access and rights of way, and to encourage the creation of multi user routes.

The BHS would like the next government to set an example to landowners everywhere by admitting the bridleways that cross public land but are as yet unrecorded, so saving local authority expenditure and making it easier for riders to find their routes on maps.

The BHS would like the next government to support the RIDE UK initiative for a national network of riding routes which would promote equestrian tourism. This would help the rural economy, and provide diversification possibilities for farmers - bed and breakfast for both riders and their horses, livery yards, toll rides - as well as promoting a healthy outdoor activity.

The BHS would like to see parity with cyclists whereby horse riders could be allowed to use cycleways, just as cyclists are permitted to use bridleways.
Education in schools
The BHS would like to see the welfare of animals to be a more significant part of the national curriculum, and that the potential value of learning about horses and ponies be recognised by the QCA as a valuable tool to bridge the gap between urban and rural communities.

Horse riding on the roads
The British Horse Society strongly urges the next government to encourage riders to undergo training to ride safely on the road, and to offer financial support for the BHS Riding and Road Safety Test. It would also like consideration to be given to the requirement for anyone riding a horse on the road to hold personal liability insurance.

Livery Yards
The BHS calls on the next government to amend the Riding Establishments Act so that the provisions be extended to include livery yards, over which at present there is no control or supervision. This situation has resulted in welfare problems that give cause for concern on the part of all the equine welfare charities. There is the added concern that many of these establishments are giving riding lessons on clients' own horses, but they are not required to be licensed, and therefore are not regulated with regard to safety issues, insurance requirements, tuition standards, and welfare of the equines concerned. In addition, they do not pay business rates, so causing unfair competition to legitimate yards.

Horse Passports
The BHS believes that the proposed compulsory registration of equines, as proposed under EC Decision 2000/68/EEC would benefit the UK equine population. It would result in a reduction in the practice of indiscriminate breeding which has led to a severe welfare problem among unsuitable and unwanted animals. It would further facilitate improvements in the overall standard of British horse breeding which are especially needed in the creation of a UK sport horse type. The BHS calls upon the government to facilitate further deliberation and consideration of the proposal if it is not enacted before a General Election.


The Equestrian Industry
There are nearly a million horses and ponies in the UK, and 2.4m riders. The equine industry is worth £2.5b the figure spent directly on the buying and keeping of horses, and on lessons and clothing. Some one million hectares of land are devoted to the keep of horses, directly and indirectly through the production of foodstuffs. It is the second largest economic activity to farming in the British countryside.

The British Horse Society
The British Horse Society is the largest equestrian membership organisation in the UK. Founded in 1947, it has 56,000 members, and represents the recreational and leisure rider. As a charity the BHS is concerned with the welfare of horses and ponies. Arising from this primary concern, the BHS provides the professional qualifications for the equestrian industry ensuring the sympathetic riding and responsible care of equines, as well as facilitating education and training for the recreational horse owner. The Society works to ensure safer off road riding routes, to improve the safety of riders who have to ride on the roads and to offer support and advice to horseowners and users on looking after horses and ponies.

The Society runs its own Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre where horses and ponies suffering deprivation or cruelty are cared for, and if possible rehabilitated and cared for. The Centre is funded largely by voluntary donations. ends

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