Forestry England, supported by The British Horse Society (BHS), is asking horse riders to give their views in a survey published online this week.

Many of the forests managed by Forestry England have enhanced access for riding, such as forest roads, and some have extra facilities including horsebox parking areas.

In some forests, where Forestry England needs an enhanced relationship with riders to help manage sensitive environments, they use a permit system to allow riding.

Forestry England’s review needs experiences and thoughts from across the riding community, including those who use permits as well as those who do not. The insight will help them assess the permits currently being used and consider how best to use them to manage riding in the nation’s forests.

“We support equestrian access in the nation’s forests and absolutely recognise how important it is for riders to have safe off-road riding,” said Bridgette Hall, Forestry England’s Head of Recreation & Visitor Experience.

“Forests we manage have 2,690km (1,670 miles) of public bridleways and byways well-used and enjoyed by many horse riders. On top of that, where we can, we also provide additional access on our forestry roads, on permissive bridleways and to link to other popular routes.

“We use permits in a limited way for equestrian access in woodlands with sensitive environments, busy or compact sites or those prone to significant poaching to help manage access, rather than stop it altogether.

“We are delighted to have support from The British Horse Society for our permit review, as they will help us gather as many views from horse riders as we can.”

Keeping permits to a minimum

Mark Weston, Director of Access at The British Horse Society, added: “We appreciate the value of the nation’s forests to horse riders, and carriage drivers, and the work that Forestry England do to maintain access.

“However, on behalf of The British Horse Society’s members, all horse riders, and carriage drivers, we are committed to making sure equestrians have improved access and any permits are kept to the absolute minimum, and only when those permits are also being used to regulate use by walkers and cyclists.

“We encourage all riders to give their views to this important survey so that we can have maximum access to forests with limited permits.”

To complete the survey, which closes on 9 April, 2023, click here. Please note that in the review and the survey, the term ‘horse riding’ is used by Forestry England to include all equine riding activities, including pony riding and carriage driving. Similarly, ‘horse riding permits’ refer to permits issued for recreational riding, and carriage driving, of all equines.

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