Horse Riding Charity Helps Veterans Adapt To Civilian Life

For centuries, the horse was the soldier’s indispensable companion.

Nowadays, the animals aren't used in warfare anymore, but one charity thinks they can help veterans adjust to life as civilians.

The idea for HorseBack UK came to Jock and Emma Hutchison over the Christmas period in 2008.

Military friends who visited had enjoyed playing with their horses and one casually commented:

“This is what the guys should do when they come back from war.”

Jock Hutchinson served in 45 Commando Royal Marines before he and his wife, Emma, set up the charity.
Jock Hutchison served in 45 Commando Royal Marines before he and his wife, Emma, set up the charity.

For nearly a decade the charity has been providing veterans with an introduction to everything equine.

Participants stay for three week-long residential courses, are taught to ride and given training in all aspects of horse care.

“Veterans have served in teams,” said Mr Hutchison, “and one of the greatest things that you can have in life, in my opinion, is to have a sense of purpose whilst being in a team that you’ve got a real identity with.

“Horsemanship is essentially leadership, it’s all about [the] team, it’s all about getting the horse to trust you enough that he is willing to follow you - not just being dragged about.

"And in that process, you’re actually using the same part of your brain that you would do if you’re engaging with people – only without the social pressures.”

Veterans learnt about all aspects of horsemanship.
Veterans learn about all aspects of horsemanship.

The mental health benefits of interacting with animals are well known and participants were enthusiastic about their experiences with the horses.

“Working with the horses is really calming,” RAF veteran Sean McGowan told Forces News.

“They’re an incredibly intelligent animal and if you explode they’ll explode. It’s really a case of understanding the horse from the ground upwards.”

“There is that unique relationship between animal and human being,” Garry Crossan, a Royal Navy veteran added.

“I found it very therapeutic.”

HorseBack UK currently operate out of a stable close to Aboyne, Aberdeenshire and plan on opening a second centre in the south of England by 2019.

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