The horses lie at the heart of everything we do at HorseBack UK. They are trained using a variation on techniques and although calm and quiet are extremely responsive when being worked on the ground or ridden.
Learning to work with a horse is one of the most intricate and challenging things anyone can do. Gaining its trust, teaching it to follow you and respond to your signals, requires a combination of confidence, calm, patience, and thought.
Once the relationship is built, the sense of achievement it brings to our participants is profound. Many of them find it hard to put the precise effect into words. “Fantastic”, “Brilliant”, “Emotional” is the most heard reactions, but it is their smiles that tell the full story.
Nimits is the original member of the HorseBack herd. He is the alpha horse and has yet to meet anyone willing to test this. He is only 14hh, but clearly thinks he’s 17.2hh. He is generally extremely laid-back, although he has a strong spirit in him, and a very powerful character. He has been known to have moments of grumpiness, and can take or leave human affection, but he is highly schooled, incredibly responsive and clever, and very easy to work with.
Red is a beautiful bright bay mare who is extremely sensitive and clever. She is always eager to come and greet people at the gate and is genuinely pleased to see new faces. As one of the older mares she is well respected amongst the other horses, is never moody or grumpy, and is a very reliable character. She’s extremely popular on the courses.
Brooke or Peopleton Brooke as he was once known is a retired racehorse. He competed in over 90 sprint races, winning 15 and being placed in more. At the end of his career he suffered a tendon injury and was turned out. In 2014 Brooke came to HorseBack UK via Retraining of Racehorses.
The idea was to give a horse who had been at the peak of his career a chance at another career. For the first few months Brooke was just turned out into the herd where he had to learn to interact with the horses. Once he had discovered that they were not interested in how fast he could run he calmed down and following several years working with Jock is now a regular course horse. He was recently awarded the ROR (Retraining of Racehorses) Special Recognition Award.
Gus was born in the summer of 2012 and is one of several homebred horses. As half brother to Toots they share the same philosophy on life, nothing bad has or will ever happen to them. Unlike Toots he has grown into quite a large horse and is becoming one of the horses in the herd to watch in the future.
Niño was imported from Argentina by our vet Jim Dukes, to work as a polo pony. Having done that for a number of years he developed a condition on his back legs which meant he was not up to the rigours of polo, so he came to HorseBack to enrol in a very different line of work. Somewhere in his past, someone was rough with him. Occasionally the memory of this surfaces, and he can get a little head-shy and difficult to catch. Because of this, he responds well to firm but extremely gentle handling. Interestingly, the veterans who work with him, especially those with PTSD, respond to him on a very emotional level.
They can tell that he once went through some trauma just as they have, and it creates a profound bond of shared experience. It’s always touching to see a horse who has suffered in the past still retaining all their trust in humans. The team joke about him is that he is particularly happy if you address him in Spanish. When he first arrived he was hogged, but now he has the strength of Samson in his flowing mane.
Jura is a Highland pony in every aspect. He is strong, adaptable and hardy with a kind temperament and very strong will. He was donated to the Charity several years ago and although it took a little while, he is now well established within the herd and he has the measure of the HorseBack staff. Due to his shape and comfort he is often ridden bareback much to the delight of our beneficiaires.
Jack has now been part of the Hutchison family for 20 years. His attitude and behaviour is exactly the same now as it was then. Watch your bottom for being bitten, your feet for being stood on and your pockets for being robbed. He creates much hilarity on the courses as he insists on rolling in the sand immediately after being groomed and attempts to drag anyone to the nearest long blade of grass.
River and Nala
River and Nala are quarter horse x highland pony full sisters. Both will go on to be the next generation of HorseBack horses and we think the combination of the two breeds will give us fantastic course horses. Both have been integrated into the main herd and are certainly full of confidence and character.
Bodi is another HorseBack homebred who is just starting her training. Although quite an opinionated youngster she has become very loving and calm and much easier to work with than we had thought. You will see her being brought in with the other course horses to learn how to stand, relax and be a HorseBack horse.
The minis or monsters as they should perhaps be called do not realise they are mini. They are their own little herd who do join the larger herd when the grass and the size of their stomachs will allow it. Many of our course attendees have had no contact with horses before they come to HorseBack and some are extremely nervous. At this point we ‘bring out the minis’. Patrick is the size of a labrador so although rather cheeky instills confidence into both children and adults so that they are ready to deal with the bigger horses.
Nellie and Bear
PJ came to HBUK from a friend who had had him since he was a yearling. He started his education straight away and after a few personal boundary issues is a joy to work with. He is calm and confident and a firm favourite with the mares due to his good looks. We are sure he will also become a firm favourite with the beneficiaries very soon.