How does Horseback UK help Veterans?
Veterans’ Foundation is proud to support Horseback UK with a grant in order to enable their valiant efforts in helping Veterans recover from serious physical and mental illnesses.
Horseback UK was started by a former Royal Marine. The charity is situated just outside Aberdeen and helps Veterans' cope with mental and physical trauma by teaching them how to ride and work with horses.
Veterans have to learn to work together with their horse which is at the heart of what the charity promotes. Forming a strong bond between themselves and their horse is a key pathway to recovery.
The charity teaches Veterans to lead horses by being kind and patient which leads them to learn how to recapture those skills that they had before they became ill. One Veteran came to Horseback UK with anger issues that had developed after his time in the Services. He quickly learned that being angry with a horse isn't going to get you anywhere, so he had to find different ways to interact with the horses to get them to do what he wanted which helped him to develop similar strategies for controlling his anger in the wider world.
We're not so different, you and I
Horseback UK uses retired racehorses to help Veterans. Veterans often have instant empathy with the horses once they learn what kind of hardships they have been through on their own journey to recovery. The horses have had to leave a "job" they love and have had to learn to fit into a new way of being once their career as racehorses was over. The Veterans are often on very similar journeys.
One Veteran explained where his head was once he left the Armed Forces: “Long after the bullets and the bombs have stopped falling - that little worm that was seeded in your head continues to grow and that pain never goes away. That war is still going on in many, many peoples' heads and it can be completely destructive. When I started having problems with my mental health, I didn't know where to turn to.”
A common issue Horseback UK found amongst Veterans was that they struggled to transition from life with their "family" in the Armed Forces back into the real world - often carrying with them serious physical or mental injuries. A transition that is difficult even if you're 100% healthy.
The charity seeks to connect people who are injured mentally or physically back with the wider world and other people. They believe that recovery is not just a clinical process it's about getting somebody back to a point where they're participating and they're able to contribute to the world again. Working with horses teaches patience while they continue to become better riders and achieve more and more with their horse.
One issue many Veterans wrestle with once they leave the Armed Forces is a lack of dignity as a result of their injuries, be it physical or mental. One physically injured Veteran remarked that his children seeing him ride a horse was the first time they looked up to him since he had to use a wheelchair. He relished the fact that for once they didn't feel like they had to look after him.