Way back 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, Jock approached the current Commanding Officer. 2008 had been a particularly traumatic year for 45 Commando in their recent tour of Afghanistan. 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.
Today, HorseBack UK is an award-winning charity aiming to inspire recovery, self-esteem and positive change in an individual, most especially veterans suffering from life-changing injury.
They use horsemanship and outdoor activities to deliver personal development programs that encourage participants to acquire new coping strategies, life skills and build resilience.
The focus of the charity’s activity is Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) or equine assisted personal development. EAL is a type of equine-assisted activity that broadly refers to non-therapy, skills-based services that focus on teaching life, social, communication and relationship skills while facilitating personal growth and increased self-awareness through interactions with horses.
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall became Patron following a visit in 2019. With her interest in the charity and her passion for the local community, Horseback founders Jock and Emma thought it would be a great fit and, thus, requested that this be considered. After due diligence they were delighted to hear that it had been approved.
Co-founder, Emma Hutchison says: “Having The Duchess of Cornwall as patron of Horseback UK makes a huge difference to the charity in so many ways. It helps put us firmly ‘on the map’ and makes it much easier for us to reach out to other people to help with funding, support, and contacts. It’s also a wonderful morale booster for everyone involved; to know that someone like her Royal Highness is interested in our work, understand its importance, and believes in what we are doing. So, it has great practical advantages and wonderful emotional ones too. I really can’t emphasise enough how much her support means to us.”
Through the pandemic Horseback UK developed their Youth Development Programme which incorporates the Princes Trust Team Programme. This is targeted at 16-25-year-olds within the local community and is a personal development programme working on confidence, self-esteem and resilience.
Moving forward, the Schools Development and Military Programmes will be continuing alongside this. They have also delivered some courses to military families as well as family groups from within the community referred by Aberdeenshire Council. They are hoping that, as someone who is highly involved with our local Royal Deeside Community, the Duchess of Cornwall will become a regular visitor and help to spread the word about their work.
ABOUT HORSEBACK UK
HorseBack UK is a multi-award-winning Scottish charity (registration number SC040765) based near Aboyne, in the Scottish Highlands. HorseBack UK works to improve health and well-being by inspiring recovery, positive change and renewed purpose amongst those who need it most and improving education and employment prospects for those who are disadvantaged or marginalised.
Using horsemanship, equine assisted learning, rural skills and the outdoors the charity delivers award-winning projects and personal development programmes that encourage participants to acquire new coping strategies, life skills and lasting resilience whilst gaining nationally recognised awards and qualifications.