In November 2008 Jock and Emma Hutchison moved with their young family to Ferrar just outside Aboyne in Aberdeenshire. Their plan was to set up a business using American Quarter Horses and western riding to explore the beautiful scenery of Royal Deeside. That Christmas several friends, many of whom were either serving or ex military came to the farm to celebrate New Year. Having played around with the horses during the day and whilst sitting around the bonfire a comment was made .
“This is what the guys should do when they come back from War”. And so the seeds of HorseBack UK were sown.
As an ex-marine himself who had served at 45 Commando in Arbroath, Jock approached the current Commanding Officer. 2008 had been a particularly traumatic year for 45 Commando as in their recent tour of Afghanistan they had lost 9 of their own in combat with a further 16 suffering life changing injuries. Jock and Emma offered the farm as somewhere that the injured marines could come to as a break away from clinical recovery and over the next 12 months had several groups come and visit the farm.
In 2009 HorseBack UK as it was now known gained charitable status with the aim of taking wounded servicemen and women and introducing them to horses. Through working with the horses amongst a like minded group, service personnel who had been mentally and physically scarred could regain their confidence, dignity and especially in the case of amputees, mobility.
As the idea grew and developed, another crucial layer was added to the initial notion: using those who had themselves been injured as a result of service to their country to assist in the delivery of the courses. This has the beneficial effect of reproducing some of the familiar camaraderie that service personnel have experienced. Most crucially, they do not have to explain themselves. There is the link of shared experience, and the understanding of the military ethos. For the instructors themselves, the ability to give something back, to help their wounded comrades, brings a sense of confidence and achievement.
The scope of the operation soon expanded. Although the original idea came in response to the shocking number of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, now the courses include personnel who may have seen service in The Falklands, Northern Ireland and the Balkans. Many of them may have been struggling with physical challenges and the effects of post-traumatic stress for years. Through the courses at HorseBack UK and the voluntary programme, which means that our participants may return to work at HorseBack year round, they find a place where they may rebuild, retrench, and move forward into a brighter future.