• Christine Keate

Unsung heroes recognised at the National Equine Forum

The Sir Colin Spedding Award is presented annually at the National Equine Forum, to an exceptional unsung hero or heroine of the equestrian world. Any individual or organisation from any equestrian field in the UK is eligible, as long as their outstanding qualities have not been formally acknowledged elsewhere.

Sir Colin Spedding was the founding chairman of the NEF and chaired the event for 20 years until his death in 2012. He ensured that representatives of all areas of the equine sphere were made welcome to the Forum, and that topics of general interest and concern could be discussed openly and amicably. The Award was introduced in 2013, in his memory.

Imran Atcha, a founder member of St James City Farm Riding School in Gloucester, was announced as this year's winner and Lynda Warth, British Horse Society County Access & Bridleways Officer for Cambridgeshire, was highly commended as an Award finalist.

Imran Atcha receiving his Award presented by HRH The Princess Royal, President of the National Equine Forum

For the past 15 years Imran Atcha has shown dedication and tireless energy in breaking down barriers to provide access to horses and other animals through his youth work and St James City Farm Riding School in Gloucester. The riding school introduces children to horses in one of the most built up and deprived areas of Gloucestershire, especially children from ethnic minority communities. Lessons are deliberately made affordable, and the ponies are also taken to primary schools and community settings. Children are introduced to different aspects of the equine world including shows, racing, eventing and horse care. Imran also advises British Equestrian and other equestrian establishments on measures to make horses more accessible.

Imran Atcha said: “Whilst I am at the forefront of our riding project, it’s not a one man operation. The work is accomplished by many different people and organisations over a long period, so I am extremely grateful for all their support and very humbled by this recognition, which is really a tribute to their efforts. We have come a long way since 2007 and we still have a lot more to do inshallah (God-willing).”

Lynda Warth was highly commended as a finalist in recognition of the sheer scope of the access work she undertakes on behalf of equestrians in Cambridgeshire and around the country. Initially helping to secure a local bridleway was the catalyst for Lynda to push for equestrian access rights to become engrained in policy; consideration of equestrian access is now a requirement for Cambridgeshire building and transport projects thanks to her endeavours. Lynda has worked to include different recreational activities within the access network, so that wherever possible families can exercise together safely, whether walking their dog, cycling, riding or carriage driving.

Lynda works alongside BHS colleagues on major transport projects to ensure that Cambridgeshire equestrians are included on all NMU (non-motorised user) provision including reconnection of any severed rights of way, access over or under roads, railways and rivers and take every opportunity to improve the existing network through the project.

Lynda Warth said: “I consider myself hugely privileged to be selected as a Finalist for this prestigious award. However, I see it as recognition by the equestrian community of the often challenging, always ongoing, hard work of Access Volunteers to protect existing paths, to search for routes which should be available and to seize every opportunity to improve the national bridleway network for current and future generations of horse riders and carriage drivers.”

The full list of Award winners can be found here https://www.nationalequineforum.com/roll-of-honour/

The NEF replay will be available from Tuesday 8th March for three weeks, free to all those who were registered for either the face-to-face event or the live streaming, and available for £20 for those who want to watch for the first time. Visit https://www.nationalequineforum.com/ to find out more.


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