The British Horse Society says it is in a race against time to preserve historic bridleways.
The society has launched a toolkit to help get historic bridleways and off-road riding routes in England and Wales recorded on the definitive map before they become at risk of being lost.
Any such routes not recorded by a 2026 cut-off date imposed by The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) will be in danger of being closed to horse riders and carriage drivers.
Potentially thousands of historic routes could be jeopardised, the society says.
“This is a very real threat to equestrians, who may currently be riding on unrecorded routes unknowingly,” it said in a statement.
“With less access to safe off-road riding than ever before, horse riders cannot afford to lose the routes they currently do have, and unless action is taken, this could be a reality.”
The society has 230 access and bridleways officers, who campaign to protect Britain’s equestrian off-road routes.
One officer has now recorded almost 20 kilometres of routes and has made applications for 100 kilometres more, which are being processed by his local council.
The new mapping “toolkit” will enable riders to check whether the routes they are riding are recorded. If they aren’t, it explains how they can preserve them beyond 2026.
The charity warned there was still much to do.
“If you don’t want to see the day where your only hacking route is out on the increasingly busy main roads, then help the BHS protect and preserve the equestrian off-road network.
“Getting these historic routes accurately recorded on the definitive map is the only way to ensure that they won’t be lost after 2026.”