AS DAELNET reported in June (See news) the Ministry of Defence and the British Horse Society (BHS) teamed up to give away free sets of high visibility clothing - aimed at riders and horse-owners in areas encountering problems with low flying helicopters - and the two organisations say the initiative has proved a tremendous success.
Riders with hi-viz gear
Photo: British Horse society
The Yorkshire Dales is just one area among many across Britain where Army helicopters fly at low level during training missions, and this can present real dangers for riders as horses are often startled by the sudden noise.
Demand for the free equipment was unprecedented says the BHS, with more than 4,000 applications received for the 750 sets available.
Priority was given to those riders in high-risk areas, who are especially vulnerable from being under the flight paths of MoD Low Flying Aircraft.
As a direct result of this avalanche of applications, the MoD has funded an additional 550 sets of equipment which will be issued to those who are already on the Society's waiting lists. They should receive their equipment by the end of August.
Safety campaigners add that the initiative has highlighted the importance of wearing Hi-Viz gear at all times, to be seen and be safe while out riding, whether on or off road, regardless of the time of year, time of day or weather conditions.
Sheila Hardy, BHS Senior Executive, said: "The BHS would like to thank everyone who took the trouble to contact us, and we are sorry that many people will be disappointed at not receiving a free set.
We recognise that there is the potential for our training in the UK to cause disturbance to members of the public, particularly the riding community
Tom Watson - Defence Minister
"We will try to acknowledge every communication received, where possible, but this will take time so we thank you for your patience."
Launching the campaign back in June, Under Secretary of State for Defence, Tom Watson, commented: "British military helicopters are providing vital support in the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan. They provide a Search and Rescue capability in the UK and have helped in humanitarian aid missions, including the Pakistan earthquake.
"Low flying is an essential part of these operations and we must train our helicopter crews and support personnel for such missions.
"We recognise that there is the potential for our training in the UK to cause disturbance to members of the public, particularly the riding community. We have reduced our training requirements to the minimum necessary to produce fully-trained forces but we are committed to taking forward safety issues wherever possible."
As a riding instructor living in Devon I greatly appreciate the efforts of the military to communicate and respond to the riding community; hopefully this will prevent any serious accidents in future.