A charity that uses horsemanship to rehabilitate wounded service personnel was given the royal seal of approval yesterday.
The Princess Royal visited Horseback UK at Dinnet, near Aboyne to hear about the work the team do to help physically and psychologically wounded servicemen and women move on with their lives.
About a dozen of the charity’s key players lined up to greet Princess Anne, who chatted briefly with each one to find out about their respective roles, which ranged from instructing courses, catering, publicity to fundraising.
After a private introduction to the charity’s work with founders Jock and Emma Hutchison, the royal was given a tour.
Her Royal Highness – who is president of both World Horse Welfare and the Riding for Disabled Association – could be seen listening intently about the tactics and leadership skills used to build a rapport with the horses, which help to build up the veteran’s confidence, mobility and general rehabilitation.
As well as watching some demonstrations, she also got up close to three of the charity’s horses – including Polly, who came from nearby Belwade Farm, run by World Horse Welfare. The black and white cob had been left on her own in a field and banged her leg so badly it was down to the bone. When rescuers found her, they had to drag her out on a polythene sheet, hence her name. Now she is fully recovered, she is helping veterans on their road to recovery.
Princess Anne also officially opened the charity’s indoor arena, which will allow courses to be run throughout the year.
The visit was organised at the request of Her Royal Highness, who heard the charity’s corporate operations manager Jay Hare give a talk at World Horse Welfare’s conference in London last year.
Mr Hare – a former corporal with 45 Commando Royal Marines – had given a talk on the value of horses, and how Horseback UK had helped him after he lost his part of his leg, his left eye and some fingers after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Yesterday, he said had been delighted to receive a letter from Princess Anne’s offices requesting the visit.
Mr Hare, who became a civilian again last year, said: “It all went just as we wanted it to.
“She seemed very interested about what we do here. We had spoken before at the World Horse Welfare conference and from there she was interested in finding out more.
“It’s been great that all the team at Horseback UK have been able to be here, and be involved, and help us get the message out about what Horseback UK does.”
Before she left, Princess Anne, who was wearing a green tartan trouser suit and Adidas sunglasses, was presented with a posy of flowers from Mr Hare’s youngest of two daughters, four-year-old Caitlin.
Afterwards, Mr Hutchison said: “I think she enjoyed the morning with us, and has gone away with an understanding of the work we do. She was very interested in the methodology of what we do here.
“We’ve helped more than 420 service personnel to move forward with their lives and tackle the challenges of a career in a life beyond the military.
“We’ve been running for seven years, and it’s been serious graft but it’s important and raising awareness is what it’s all about.”