Jay - Horseback UK

JAY

Testimonial coming soon! Please check back.
Testimonial coming soon! Please check back.

BAZ

Telling as many people as possible about what you are doing is crucial to making it a huge success. HorseBack UK is unable to publicise the event,but we do recommend a few actions:

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TERRI

When I was first asked if I wanted to get involved with this charity I wasn’t quite sure what it was going to entail? Well when someone says ‘Western’ most people automatically think cowboys or lassoes! And I have to say…. far from it!!

I have tried to write a few paragraphs about my experience at ‘horseback UK’ but on reading it back, it has never really done it any justice. What did I get out of it? A week of laughter, determination and amazement! That’s without the achievement of getting on the horse and the ground work, which after a very short time, we were comfortable enough to do solo. I have always been a big believer in the healing abilities of animals, and seeing the way both the BLESMA members and the horse adapted very quickly was both amazing to see and to experience. Ok these horses are well trained in what they do, but introducing a wheelchair and disabled people with quite obvious disabilities, including false limbs, which were totally foreign to them didn’t bother them at all.

“I have always been a big believer in the healing abilities of animals, and seeing the way both the BLESMA members and the horse adapted very quickly was both amazing to see and to experience.”
From both a personal experience and knowing of others going through the same or similar challenges in their lives with the ‘add ons’ of the stress from disability and care services that come with their individual disabilities, it became apparent to me very early on that these animals and the ground work the staff had us doing with them had an immense calming effect with barriers between horse and member being broken down quickly and within a very short time, even the members at the beginning that had said they weren’t really ‘horsey’ people were totally in awe of these animals.

As a disabled person there are very few activities that you can do with little or no help from an able bodied helper, this I believe is one of those which are possible. I hadn’t done any riding of any kind since I was 16 years old, more years ago than I care to remember! And I wouldn’t say I am suddenly a ‘trained’ rider, but taking part in the week in Aberdeen certainly did give me the encouragement and incentive to look at it further, with the stresses of lifestyle, this would for me be a good unwind and welcomed distraction, as well as a pastime I wouldn’t mind looking into further.

The other thing that soon became apparent was one of the big things that BLESMA members are renowned for, which is their ability to encourage and drive each other and with their own determination rubbing off on to others around them. During our week with Horseback UK we had the pleasure of meeting members from ‘combat stress’ and ‘ friends of Horseback’ as the days went on, it wasn’t long before experiences were being shared and the comparing of stories were flowing fast, another trait of BLESMA members, their ability to ‘self-help’ comparing their experience and ways it’s been dealt with.

It wasn’t just a learning curve for us as disabled people, but I think although there are a few people carrying disabilities themselves that work within horseback, which really was an asset as they could use their own experiences in helping us to learn, for some of the others it was the first time so we were learning off each other and learning to adapt to our own needs, depending on disability.
“A week of laughter, determination and amazement! That’s without the achievement of getting on the horse and the ground work, which after a very short time, we were comfortable enough to do solo.”
The staff within HorseBack UK were keen to make this an enjoyable, rewarding experience for us all and was more than willing to adapt and adjust to our needs where ever they could.

I want to say a Big thank you to those at Horseback for giving us all the chance to enjoy and learn from this experience.

ANDY

Until January 2012 I was proudly serving in The Black Watch, The Third Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland and was fortunate enough to serve as an Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team Commander in Musa Qa’leh during Operation HERRICK 10.

It was during this tour that I was involved in an IED strike, which has left me with hearing loss and associated neurological symptoms. Unfortunately this resulted in me being medically retired from the service and searching for a new start.

I am by no means an isolated case and you will all be aware that the British Army has been involved in high intensity overseas operations for the past 20 years, which has resulted in a large influx of injured service personnel experiencing the recovery and resettlement process. While this has certainly put a strain on the existing procedures it cannot be denied that the recovery process has come on in leaps and bounds. Front end medical care is now second to none and the continuing physical care provided at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, Headley Court and Personnel Recovery Centres is some of the best to be found. What happens, however, when the physical recovery is complete and it is time to return to your unit or indeed to start a new life as a civilian? Resettlement services currently used by the Army have been a great success for the service leaver who is leaving on his or her own volition but those who are leaving through medical retirement are a different kettle of fish altogether.

“Horsemanship has proven to be a fantastic way to boost confidence”
What makes the medically retired different is that this was not how the career was meant to end so plans have not normally been made to much detail. Being in the Army is a complete lifestyle so being medically discharged can feel as though life is being wrenched away from you, which can lead to a great deal of mental anguish. This, in addition to existing issues can lead to feelings of isolation. Resettlement services are involved in the recovery process but having worked alongside many of those who have been through recovery, I know that physical and mental recovery will always take precedence over the need to get a new career. As a result of this many will find themselves in situations where their new life is not fulfilling and can quite easily lead to a loss of self-confidence. This can easily result in isolation which is the biggest problem facing anyone who has been through a recovery process.

On leaving I was informed that physically and mentally I was ready to leave the forces. Any soldier who is told this will believe it and I ran headlong into setting up a business without the awareness that I was not actually physically or mentally ready to do so. This resulted in a huge dip in self-confidence which led to me becoming isolated from who I really am. I was becoming full of self-pity and my family were becoming concerned with my vulnerability. I was then introduced to a small team of dedicated serving and ex service personnel who run a charity called HorseBack UK.
“The horsing here is about functionality over form, mobility over rigid discipline and about learning how to get the horse to do what you want because they trust you, not because you tell them to.”
My initial instinct here was to get in PFT mode and run as fast as I could away from a “pony trekking” set up. I could not have been more wrong.

HorseBack UK can be described in many ways but is in essence a transit lounge where individuals have the time to work in a team again and take stock of where life has taken them and more importantly what direction they will take now.

The name clearly shows that there is an element of horsing involved in what HorseBack UK does but it is much more than that. Everyone who attends a course is given an opportunity to choose from a list of rural activities as diverse as bush craft and adventure training activities such as canoeing. These activities will take place in an afternoon following a morning of work alongside the specially and specifically trained American Quarter Horses – that’s right, this is western riding utilising the relaxed, low maintenance riding style epitomised by John Wayne and Clint Eastwood in the western movies. The horsing here is about functionality over form, mobility over rigid discipline and about learning how to get the horse to do what you want because they trust you, not because you tell them to.
“My initial instinct here was to get in PFT mode and run as fast as I could away from a “pony trekking” set up. I could not have been more wrong.”
None of this would really matter if it was not for the HorseBack UK team, of which most have served and many have been through their own recovery process. Who can deny that a Royal Marine who suffered multiple injuries in an IED blast has empathy for people undergoing recovery and who is going to question their own ability when confronted by a Paratrooper who lost both his legs in a similar IED blast? HorseBack UK truly is run “by the boys, for the boys” and this is why I believe it works so well; after all who is better to offer advice about recovery and resettlement than those who have undergone the process?

All too often injured service personnel and veterans are treated differently to the way they were treated pre injury and this is one of the major causes of isolation. A good friend of mine recently said “Just because I have lost my legs doesn’t mean I have lost my mind”.

None of us joined the Army to be served, we joined to lead active lives in the service of our country and just because we are no longer fit to serve in the military does not mean we are no longer fit to work and lead active lives in service of our local communities. As a result of contemporary operations a large number of those going through recovery and the subsequent resettlement process are young men and women with a great deal of life ahead of them. This is a fantastic opportunity for all involved as I can personally vouch for the tenacity and work ethic of many of those who have been through the process.

While HorseBack UK is primarily concerned about directly helping injured service personnel there are also a number of other initiatives designed to empower those who have been through recovery. There is a successful leadership training package being delivered to the Oil Industry based in Aberdeen. This package combines military leadership and leadership within horsemanship to provide a unique insight into what is required to become an effective team leader. All delivering the training have been through recovery and the feedback from the companies involved is extraordinarily positive. 2013 will see HorseBack UK build on this relationship to provide training for many more company employees and also extend our services to work alongside disadvantaged children in the local community.
“A good friend of mine recently said “Just because I have lost my legs doesn’t mean I have lost my mind”
I have now spent a year working at the HorseBack UK centre in Aboyne, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire and am now aware of what is really being offered by the dedicated team of workers and volunteers: time to regain confidence and skills, time to become part of the local community and above all time and insight to realise what it is you really want to do after leaving the military. By working alongside the local community and the Oil Industry HorseBack UK are exposing the young service leavers to potential new opportunities for life and simultaneously helping to remove the stigma associated with physical and mental injury.

It is now my time to move on with my life. The fact that I am able to do this owes a great deal to HorseBack UK, Thank you.
“Help for Heroes is proud to provide financial support to Horse Back UK and the charities work together to help those who have suffered life-changing injuries and illnesses develop life-skills and independence as part of their Recovery Pathway.”
Horsemanship has proven to be a fantastic way to boost confidence

It wasn’t just a learning curve for us as disabled people, but I think although there are a few people carrying disabilities themselves that work within horseback, which really was an asset as they could use their own experiences in helping us to learn, for some of the others it was the first time so we were learning off each other and learning to adapt to our own needs, depending on disability.
“A week of laughter, determination and amazement! That’s without the achievement of getting on the horse and the ground work, which after a very short time, we were comfortable enough to do solo.”
The staff within HorseBack UK were keen to make this an enjoyable, rewarding experience for us all and was more than willing to adapt and adjust to our needs where ever they could.

I want to say a Big thank you to those at Horseback for giving us all the chance to enjoy and learn from this experience.
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Ric

HorseBack UK is one of the most significant connections I have made since I finished active service. By being back with true family, the Corps, my instincts are reawakened, my personal troubles eased from my mind whilst also feeling fitter, all in the fresh air of our countryside, it blows the blues away.
Like nature a ‘veteran of combat’ does not like empty spaces, and so as nature fills its lost spaces with new life, Horseback UK helps fill such voids with new life that will flourish in the hearts of veterans, their families and communities. New beginnings, being involved with HorseBack UK giving these men a fresh start and using their abilities to contribute to society whilst enjoying life more in a most enjoyable environment. The connections afforded to us by the horses all has a very rewarding affect, especially when a horse knows that the rider has got it just right, it is a great confidence boost, like a level partnership you constantly achieve with a horse. A feeling of well-being, commerarderie, humour, purpose and achievements are all constant at HorseBack UK. New horizons, new hope, HorseBack UK has made a world of difference to me.

Louis

Testimonial coming soon! Please check back.
Testimonial coming soon! Please check back.

John

John was born and bred in Glasgow. At the age of 18 he joined the Royal Regiment of Scotland, 4 Scots.


John toured Afghanistan for Herrick 12 and a year later was sent to Canada for some AT training prior to their next planned exercise.

Part of the AT exercise included sky diving. John’s group were doing static line jumps from 400 feet. Unfortunately when it was Johns turn his parachute failed to open and he fell the 400 feet to the ground.

Somehow John survived and was bought back to the UK in an induced coma. Most of the bones on the right side of his body were shattered, including his leg, all his ribs and his jaw. He had also suffered a major head injury. He was given three days to live.

John is a fighter and was taken to Birmingham hospital for 3 weeks and then on to Headley Court for 3 months in the complex trauma department. Here they taught him to walk and talk again.


A year after his accident John came to HorseBack UK.

John says “When I first arrived at HorseBack I was in a very dark place with nothing to look forward to. Before I came here I didn’t leave the house or talk to anyone as I was scared something bad would happen. By being back in a group with guys who understood, with similar injuries I became more confident. It helped me to see that there are things I can do as opposed to things I can’t.”

MArty

Originally from Sunderland, Marty joined 2 para at the age of 23 having already experienced a bit of life.
He served with rifle co for 2 years before training as a sniper. He served 4 tours of Northern Ireland, 2 tours of Afghanistan and 2 tours of amongst others.

In Feb 2011 he was a sniper platoon commander when he received a severe head injury. Marty was flown back to Queen Elizabeth’s in Birmingham where he was not expected to survive. He was put into an induced coma for 5 days until he awoke extremely confused as to what had happened.

Once stable he then went to Headley Court for 12 months where he had fantastic treatment to teach him to talk again. Once able to talk he had the long process of learning to read and write again. Being physically fit Marty wanted to find opportunities that he could take part in whilst still working on his language skills and that is how he came to attend HorseBack in May 2013.

Marty says
“Animals have always been a passion of mine and the relaxed and family atmosphere has allowed me to regain my communication skills without any pressure. It has shown me that there are many opportunities to work in the outdoors which I would never have thought about before. I thought my future was bleak but now I have confidence in myself and what lies ahead of me.

Steve Carle

Steve Carle took on Saddam Hussein’s forces in the desert – and suffered a 20-year legacy of shakes, sweats, flashbacks and nightmares. The former Royal Engineer immersed himself in drugs and drink but could not bury his torrid memories of the Gulf war zone in 1991.

Steve, 44, said:
“I can walk into a bar or shop I have been in 100 times and something will trigger an episode. I still can’t sit in a strange place with my back exposed. I always have to see what is coming towards me.”

“The dreams are so vivid. Some nights, I close my eyes and it is like a cinema picture coming up in front of me.”
Steve began to confront his demons in 2011 when he contacted veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress. Counselling and group therapy gave him an understanding of his problems and helped him develop coping mechanisms.

Whilst at Combat Stress Steve found a HBUK leaflet and attended a course fairly shortly afterwards. He is now a regular volunteer.

Steve Says

“I love the ethos of HorseBack and find it extremely beneficial and rewarding working both the horses and being able to help other veterans.”

Scotty

Testimonial coming soon! Please check back.
Testimonial coming soon! Please check back.

PAT

Pat was born in Auchterarder in 1984. At the age of 17 he joined the Black Watch and by his 19th birthday was in Iraq. On his return things became extremely difficult and he was medically discharged. His relationship broke down and Pat turned to drink as an escape mechanism.
Whilst attending Combat Stress, Pat heard about HorseBack and attended his first course in 2011. Since then his life is much improved, he has a great relationship with his children again, his anger is now sorted and his drinking is much reduced. He now looks forward to his future. Pat says “HorseBack UK was not what I expected. It is all about good banter and being treated as being responsible for your own destiny. You become part of a family but are not mollycoddled. Working with the horses has been amazing but very unexpected. It has given me back my confidence to look forward.”
Continued…
Here are a few more observations from course attendees, senior officers, family members and health professionals.

Cpl, 45 Commando Royal Marines

I have visited HorseBack UK several times now and feel that it has become an important new chapter in my life.

HorseBack UK is a great new charity that shows there is still hope in life. There are several methods (horse riding, horsemanship, crafts, fishing and socialising) that the charity uses to show that you are still very able and would still be a great asset to anything you wish to achieve. The charity does not just aim itself at serving members of the armed forces but young potentials that aspire to join and veterans alike. HorseBack UK brings three generations together in a fun, safe and challenging environment, to speak and learn from each other and ultimately helps each other in whichever way possible.

I would like to give a personal thank you to HorseBack UK for everything they have done for me which is greatly valued not just by me but my family also.


I currently work in the medical centre at 45Cdo and provide medical services to many of the injured servicemen. We have a troop dedicated to individuals who have been injured through operations and training. Being injured whether temporary or permanent can have profound effects on patients not only physically but socially and psychologically. Many of our injured have been to HorseBack UK as we see this as a vital aspect in their recovery.

The recovery pathway for many individuals can be lengthy filled with frustration and isolation. Hours of work in the gym and at home can take its toll on normally physically active military people. I have seen several of the injured in Harden troop positively rejuvenated by the experience at HorseBack UK. They are given the chance to learn new skills overcoming their physical limitations but in a meaningful and worthwhile capacity. The holistic approach also aids the mental and social recovery. ‘I feel useful again’ was said by one marine on his return. This is a simple statement but a huge leap in the mental recovery of a previously fiercely independent marine. The future is often uncertain for the injured but one marine said ‘I can see a good life after the marines’. Horseback UK introduces options for the future by teaching new skills and offering job opportunities.

The optimism and enthusiasm of those returning from HorseBack UK is infectious. The positive effect on the recovery of the injured is obvious and invaluable. I hope many more service personnel are able to benefit from this outstanding experience in their recovery pathway.

Dr A Docherty, CMP, 45Cdo RM Condor

I currently work in the medical centre at 45Cdo and provide medical services to many of the injured servicemen. We have a troop dedicated to individuals who have been injured through operations and training. Being injured whether temporary or permanent can have profound effects on patients not only physically but socially and psychologically. Many of our injured have been to HorseBack UK as we see this as a vital aspect in their recovery.

The recovery pathway for many individuals can be lengthy filled with frustration and isolation. Hours of work in the gym and at home can take its toll on normally physically active military people. I have seen several of the injured in Harden troop positively rejuvenated by the experience at HorseBack UK. They are given the chance to learn new skills overcoming their physical limitations but in a meaningful and worthwhile capacity. The holistic approach also aids the mental and social recovery. ‘I feel useful again’ was said by one marine on his return. This is a simple statement but a huge leap in the mental recovery of a previously fiercely independent marine. The future is often uncertain for the injured but one marine said ‘I can see a good life after the marines’. Horseback UK introduces options for the future by teaching new skills and offering job opportunities.

The optimism and enthusiasm of those returning from HorseBack UK is infectious. The positive effect on the recovery of the injured is obvious and invaluable. I hope many more service personnel are able to benefit from this outstanding experience in their recovery pathway.

I am an individual who has been suffering from PTSD for 10 years. On a regular basis I have to make the decision whether to live or die, to stay in the depths of despair, depression, worthlessness, guilt or horror.

Talking with people who have been through the same thing helps me but today I met my horse Ellie May. She could feel everything that was going on inside me so there was no escape, I had to stand tall and be strong. I had to let her know how emotionally fragile I am but at the same time gain her respect and be strong to protect and lead her.

We connected and I felt strong, capable and in control for the first time in many years. This has breathed new life into me as for 10 years I’ve been lost and now after 5 days with HorseBack I am found. Thank you Thank you.

Wife of Member of Special Forces

Dear HorseBack, thanks to you and of course the horses, my husband had his first nights decent sleep in years. For a man who hears the screams of the dying constantly in his head and doesn’t like himself as a person most of the time that is some achievement. The effects have lasted longer than I expected too, we had a few moments before he left when he would normally have gone into the darkness but much to my surprise and delight he was very chilled and relaxed.

Long may it continue for both our sakes! What you have given me is hope, hope that I’ll get some of my old husband back, and hope that he’ll find some peace and most of all hope that we can have a future together. It was getting to the stage where my self-preservation instincts were kicking in and the realisation that my love alone couldn’t fix him made me even more determined to get him some help. We found it.

Following many years in the military I was medically discharged and then in 2010 diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of my past military career. I had suppressed my problems with alcohol until then when it affected my health and had to be addressed. It was at this point I was offered the chance to go on a course horse riding. I thought ‘me on a horse, never’ However I found myself going for a week to a place called Horseback UK which is in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire.

It is the most scenic and relaxing place I have seen in quite a while bearing in mind I live in Edinburgh. We were met by Jock, Emma, Jay and Rick and the rest of the posse. We had a briefing of what we could expect from the week. I thought fishing, survival, birds of prey, cowboy style riding, too good to be true Nothing like this happens to me. Well true to their word I did all that and found myself doing things I had never done before and also doing things I hadn’t done in a while i.e. relaxing, confidence building, self-esteem, meeting people with similar backgrounds and talking.

One of the best things I can say happened was Jock and Emma made us welcome and wanted to see us go forward which I feel has helped in my continuing journey. An experience you thought you wouldn’t do but one you will never forget now you have achieved it.

Cpl RAF

“I have learnt that I am stubborn but determined and still able to learn. I can laugh again and know what fun is. I thank you so much for this as I now realise I am not on the scrap heap and have a chance at life again.”

Cpl 2 Para

“The horse looked at me and made me stand up straight again – I had forgotten how to do this.”

Sgt RAF

“The horse looks at you honestly – its then up to you to believe in yourself.”

Sgt Royal Marines

“What I have been doing here is about living, learning new things, taking risks, being anxious sometimes, not knowing if I can cope – but getting through it and realising, ‘I’m OK’”

It’s been a long while, but I had some things I needed to do for myself.

I think after a lot of hard work and getting to a good place, then having difficulties with things sometimes, I must have seemed different during my stay at horseback from when I first met all of you.
I had gone through some things that had set me back by the time I reached you again and I arrived frustrated, hurting, feeling lost and alone and finding it hard to deal with at times. I was hiding from this and doing a poor job of pretending.

This wouldn’t have become so apparent to me without the conversations I was able to have with all of you, those in particular know who they are.

The patience and respite and most of all the positive attitudes afforded to me by all of you was of great importance. In the end I was able to realise that first and foremost my goal before anything else was to get myself a life again and finds reasons to feel happy in myself once more.
As most of you know some big changes have happened for me and I am back to my old self again with reasons to smile once more.

In the last year I have become engaged to a beautiful woman, become a father and have set up and have also been running my own construction company to support us.
Now we are ready to move as a family to Scotland to start a new life together.
None of this would have happened without your support during my stay. Some of you were more instrumental than you could possibly imagine…and that includes the horses 🙂

Thanks guys,

“I was much impressed on a recent visit to Horseback UK by two particular things: first, the enthusiasm and determination of Emma and Jock Hutchison and second, the evident pleasure and benefit gained by the wounded Royal Marines that I met. The project is still in its infancy but the potential is very obvious.

Horseback UK seems to me to be one of those charities that has hit on an excellent idea, that has set about establishing itself in a well-planned and vigorous way, and which delivers immediate results for those wounded servicemen who are lucky enough to be able to take part in its activities. It needs further pump priming in order to set it on a firm and permanent footing and I recommend it warmly.” Sir Alistair Irwin, President Veterans Scotland

I have seen the benefits of Horse Back UK at first hand in some of my patients; it has been transforming. 

The opportunity to become mobile again in those who have lost the ability to walk, either through limb loss or injury cannot be underestimated, and it is extremely significant for these men. Before their injury, they were exceptionally fit and active highly trained soldiers; many had a keen interest in outdoor pursuits such as climbing and mountaineering. The sense of loss is especially debilitating, despite extraordinary levels of determination, courage and commitment. There is not only the suffering of the physical loss, but the psychological impact of the loss of independence, aspirations and ability.

Getting on a horse, and working with the animals to regain access into the mountains has a tremendous therapeutic effect.

The concept of “for the boys, by the boys” gives purpose and value to the experience, and allows them to be a part of a team again and to work for each other, all things which have denied by their injury. I think that Horse Back UK are doing a tremendous job to help with the rehabilitation of our wounded soldiers




Roderick Dunn MB BS DMCC FRCS (Plast) 
Consultant Plastic Reconstructive and Hand Surgeon
, Salisbury

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