HorseBack UK is galloping forward

February 17, 2023
Ray, Taff and Danielle at the entrance

Highland RFCA Regional Employer Engagement Director (REED) Ray Watt, Engagement Admin Officer (AO) Danielle Barclay and Communications Officer Annushka Bholai visited HorseBack UK in Aboyne on 9 February.

The last time the HRFCA team visited HorseBack UK in 2022, Ray presented the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Bronze Award to Team Programme Coordinator Richard ‘Taff’ Teague. HorseBack UK had previously signed the Armed Forces Covenant – a commitment to support the country’s service personnel wherever and however an organisation can – in 2020.

This year, Ray met with Taff to discuss the process and requirements for the inspirational charity to achieve the ERS Silver Award next and, eventually, the Gold Award. The charity has already submitted their Expression of Interest ahead of the 2023 deadline on 5 April and plans on applying for the Silver Award before the application window closes on 19 April.

The 2023 ERS Silver and Gold timeline.

Co-Founders Jock and Emma Hutchison joined Taff to update the HRFCA team on how they have been continuing to support defence and the Armed Forces community. Taff said: “I’ve seen magic happen here and change happen in people. The horse magic is what we base everything on.”

HorseBack UK aims to inspire recovery, regain self-esteem and promote positive change in an individual. Using horsemanship, outdoor activities and Equine Assisted Learning, it delivers nationally recognised and accredited personal development programmes that encourage participants to acquire new coping strategies, life skills and build lasting resilience.

The charity works to empower service personnel and veterans suffering from life-changing physical and mental injuries, and to aid them on their road to recovery. In addition to providing courses and programmes for the Armed Forces community, HorseBack UK also employs several veterans. They advocate for defence in the wider community and reintegrate military personnel into the community.

They constantly plan new courses and new ways of expanding their reach. In 2020, as part of the Armed Forces Covenant Live Life Project, they started delivering new military families’ courses. The next families’ course is taking place in July 2023.

Their latest venture is a partnership with The Prince’s Trust, designed by Taff. In 2022, HorseBack UK became a delivery partner, delivering its first 12-week Youth Development Team Programme to 16-25 year olds within the local community.

The courses incorporate the following qualifications:

  • Prince’s Trust Team Programme
  • SQA Level 4 Personal Development Through Horsemanship
  • SQA Level 2 Mental Health and Wellbeing
  • John Muir Award (Discovery Level).

Throughout the pandemic, they have been working on the delivery of wellbeing courses to NHS staff, carers and care home managers. In 2022, NHS Grampian successfully ran the pilot scheme for their staff. We Care oversaw this work with support from Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals (NMAHP) Directorate. They are running a second wellbeing course for their Facilities and Estates staff as part of #TimeOutForWellbeing in February. They are hoping to expand to more NHS facilities, but most importantly, the NHS is now recognising HorseBack UK as a wellbeing provider.

The charity now shares its time between these groups with a crossover whenever possible. Both of these programmes will continue to grow in the next few years. Those who have completed the program return to assist in the delivery of other courses, offering their support and experiences as mentors.

In the last 12 months, HorseBack UK has delivered 337 courses across their military, community, youth development, school, corporate and NHS & Care programmes. The charity continues to be an SQ Educational Centre, BHS Centre of Excellence and is on the Aberdeenshire Council Outdoor Providers List.

President and Co-Founder Jock is an ex-marine who served at 45 Commando in Arbroath and as a helicopter pilot for the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Marines. The HRFCA team was fortunate enough to witness his demonstration of horsemanship and leadership skills. He emphasised the core values of the organisation: kindness, patience, consistency and belief.

Jock demonstrating to Danielle, Ray and Taff
Jock demonstrating horsemanship and leadership skills to Danielle (left), Ray and Taff (right).

The team was also able to observe a groundwork lesson for veterans in Phase 1 of their course. Jock said: “The horses are the conduit for these individuals reconnecting to the world, to others and to themselves.”

Veterans working with horses
Veterans taking part in a groundwork lesson.

Next, HorseBack UK is looking forward to their valuable work with veterans and horses being showcased in an upcoming episode on the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI).

The charity’s future strategic growth plans also include building a wellbeing hub with accommodation which could then be hired out to organisations such as Cadet Forces. The team will also be expanding to be able to start traveling across the UK to deliver more courses.

CEO and Co-Founder Emma shared that they will soon be running their first all-female course. They are also grateful for the continued support of the charity’s Patron, Her Majesty The Queen Consort.

Main image, top of page: Pictured at the entrance of HorseBack UK in Aboyne are, from left, HRFCA REED Ray Watt, HorseBack UK Team Programme Coordinator Taff Teague and HRFCA Engagement AO Danielle Barclay.

Taff, Danielle and Ray petting horses
Taff (left), Danielle and Ray (right) greeting some of the 36 horses on the property.

For more on the Employer Recognition Scheme, click HERE.

For more on HorseBack UK, click HERE. For the full story on the charity’s ERS Bronze Award presentation, click HERE.

To find out how you can support the Armed Forces, contact HRFCA’s Regional Employer Engagement Directors Ray Watt at [email protected], or Roy McLellan at [email protected].