One of the great things about the last year at HorseBack is that we have been extending our reach beyond the veteran community. Our wounded veterans will always be at the heart of everything we do. They were the inspiration behind the charity and remain its guiding force. But it’s been really exciting to see how our founding principles can be applied to civilians who have suffered life-changing injury, or who are facing tough challenges, or who are struggling with life in a variety of ways. We have found that working with the horses gives our participants confidence and purpose, and can bring them a new sense of perspective and hope.
Chloe, whom you can see in the photograph, came to us through the good people at Racing Welfare. Since Retraining of Racehorses sent us Peopleton Brook, an ex-sprinter who now works with our veterans, we have been building links with the racing community. Chloe trained to be a jockey, and had just graduated when she was involved in a car accident which caused her catastrophic brain injury. At HorseBack, we do not focus on what people cannot do but what they can, which is why we do not use the word disability. We put Chloe straight to work.
Ellie-May is one of the gentlest mares in the HorseBack herd, but she is not a trick horse. She is not trained to follow about a motorised wheelchair. At first, as Chloe started working her on the ground, Ellie would not hook on. Chloe had to work hard to build a bond of communication and trust between her and the horse. She did this so well that on the second day she took Ellie round a complex obstacle horse without a rope.
She then got in the saddle, and took the mare round the same course. The fascinating thing was that although Chloe’s brain injury means that her body does not work as it once did, the moment she got on Ellie she looked as if she had come home. It’s tough for anyone to learn to ride a new horse; it’s tougher if you have undergone trauma to the brain. But we had faith in Chloe and she had faith in Ellie and Ellie gave that faith right back to her. It was a fine sight and a grand achievement. We knew that we had done our job when Chloe said she did not want to go home.
It was a great day, and we hope to get Chloe back with us again before Christmas. We feel that a tremendous partnership has begun.