Guy Henderson, chair of the Horse Trust

Change should come at a trot, not a gallop, he tells Paul Jump

As a disputes lawyer at law firm Allen & Overy, Guy Henderson doesn't have much time for involvement in charities. But he says he is getting a lot out of being chairman of the Horse Trust.

"It is a pleasure to be involved in something that doesn't involve disputes," he says. "It has been a joy to work with people in charities."

Henderson had no previous trustee experience when he was asked in 2005 to join the board of what is believed to be the world's oldest equine charity, established in 1886. But it seemed a natural step for a former Pony Club member and amateur steeplechaser.

"Horses have been a big part of my life and my family's life," he says. "Our family has several horses on our small farm in Dorset. My mother was a jockey in the 1950s, my wife is in the Pony Club and keen on hunting, and my son is trying to be a professional steeplechase jockey."

Henderson makes no apology for the "close and harmonious" charity's practice of tapping its own networks when trying to find new trustees, rather than embracing the trend for open board recruitment. "It works for us because we have a membership to draw on," he says. "Trustees serve a maximum of six years and it is their responsibility to find people to replace them."

Nor has the charity felt the need to embrace other aspects of modern governance such as skills audits, governance reviews or trustee appraisals. "If it's not broken, don't try to fix it," says Henderson. "It has never been suggested that we as a board are not making a proper contribution. Once a year we have a good look at ourselves, and our auditors are quite proactive at making us focus on issues we should be focusing on."

One of those issues is the charity's perceived over-reliance on legacy income, the value of which Henderson fears will decline as people live longer. "We are looking at how we should do more fundraising," he says. "We are an old and cautious charity, so we evolve rather than have revolutions. We manage our assets quite prudently and we aren't in crisis."

Other top priorities include improving the educational value for visitors of the charity's home for retired horses in the Chilterns, and researching ways of preparing for a possible pandemic of African Horse Sickness, something that would have "a cataclysmic impact on our equine industry".

As for Henderson, he has no predictions about what he will do when his term at the Horse Trust ends in 2011, but says he would definitely want to contribute something to his local community - provided he can fit it into his schedule.

"I still have four teenage children, so charity begins at home in terms of time," he says. "I will agree something with my wife, who is on other boards. We'll be rebalancing as a pair and we will share things out between us."

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