Part of the founding ethos of HorseBack was the idea of: ‘By the boys, for the boys.’ (And girls too, of course.) From the very beginning, we felt it was vital to get veterans involved in helping each other. This not only restores a sense of purpose and mission, but uses the powerful tool of shared experience. Only someone who has been in a foxhole can fully understand the view from that foxhole, literally and metaphorically.
That was why we instituted a rolling volunteer programme, where those who had been on the courses could come back and help with the work we do here. This was very successful, but functioned on an ad hoc basis. We wanted to make something that was more regular and formalised, a proper programme with proper training and even the possibility of a qualification at the end of it.
This year, we have set up our first mentors’ course. Veterans who have been through the HorseBack courses will come here to work with those attending the courses for the first time. The mentors will be fully trained in all aspects of the HorseBack work, from stable management to communication techniques. Some of it will be quite straightforward – grooming, basic first aid – and some will be challenging and complex – identifying and safeguarding vulnerable groups. It will call on all the skill sets these veterans have.
We are intensely excited about this new direction for HorseBack. It has been something we have wanted to institute for a long time, but getting it up and running has been a long and winding road. Now, however, we are on the brink of greeting and coaching a new set of mentors. Their role will be invaluable. As HorseBack co-founder Jock Hutchison says: ‘Who better to lead you out of the darkness than someone who has travelled the same road?’
The team in charge of devising and establishing this programme has worked incredibly hard. It’s always very easy to write about these new initiatives. In simple prose, they can sound inevitable and uncomplicated. Of course mentoring is a good idea; let’s get it done. The getting it done, which goes on behind the scenes, is far from simple. The thing has to be mapped out, all contingencies planned for, every possible nuance considered. Each team member involved has had to go on courses themselves, to refresh old abilities and qualifications and develop new ones. (There is health and safety too, but we are not going to descend to cheap H&S jokes.) The gap between the idea and the inception is a wide one, and takes a lot of patience and industry to bridge. That is why when something like this finally comes to fruition it is a day of jubilee, and we take our hats off to all those who have laboured so diligently to make it possible.
The first group of mentors arrives on the 18th of March. We can’t wait.