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
45Cdo RM Condor
On arrival at HorseBack UK I was anxious, worried, my head hurt and I was certainly completely out of my comfort zone. There was a lot to take in, new people, a strange place but I could see what the aim was. Working with the horses and the staff and experiencing the new activities increased my confidence on a daily basis. Although we were working as a group we did a lot by ourselves within the safety net of the group and I can see this helping with independent living. 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 chance as I now realise I am not on the scrap heap and have a chance at life again.
I have learnt that communication and observations are a big part in relationships with both horses and people. A massive thank you to all the staff at HorseBack who have given me some hope and renewed my passion for learning and hopefully being able to improve myself and my life.
HorseBack UK, fantastic, awesome. I will be back and would like to be involved in a similar project or volunteer with HorseBack UK to expand the existing one. I have realised I am not as loopy as I thought I was. Having participated in other veteran’s projects this is by far the best and most therapeutic project to kick start me on my journey back.
A week at HorseBack and my confidence has soared. Taking on new challenges, although physically and mentally exhausting, has been exhilarating. The sense of bonding and atmosphere of camaraderie is not something I have experienced since leaving the military. The only bad thing, having to leave! I must thank the staff for the fantastic week and I now go home looking forward to what is ahead.
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.
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.
Wife of Member of Special Forces
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.
“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.”
“The horse looked at me and made me stand up straight again – I had forgotten how to do this.”
Cpl 2 Para
“The horse looks at you honestly – its then up to you to believe in yourself.”
“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’”
Sgt Royal Marines
“Being here in the calm has made me remember about myself and what I can do.”
“When you get on the horse it reminds you that you can do things”
“The horse looks at you honestly – its then up to you to believe in yourself “
“Just being quiet and reflecting gave me an opportunity to think about how I could change some things in my life.
“It’s about remembering you are alive and that you can contribute to things “
“Getting up on the horse something changed inside me –I don’t know what it was, maybe spiritual but it was good “
“I allowed myself to feel emotions – you do not have to appear strong all the time – its okay to cry “
“Working with the horses made me feel connected to being alive again”
“It made me realise that what I have being 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 okay“
“Doing something, just talking about things – listening to the other guys “
“Mending a fence is like mending your life it’s about getting the chance to do it “
“It feels good doing men’s work again “
“I have learned there are other feelings than being angry – being patient and going with it , trusting others again – going fishing made me think about this more.“
“The horses accept you it’s as though they can see inside your mind “
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 🙂
“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
Testimonial by Roderick Dunn
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