I was privileged to receive my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award from Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace. Little did I know that the experiences then and our shared love of horses would shape my life- even this, my own legacy.
For the 3 years of my 'DofE' Community Service I had visited residents of a 'Geriatric Ward' in Belfast during ‘the troubles’. I wrote notes for them to send, asked about their memories. They may have been frail, but they had experienced a full life. I couldn't understand that they had no other visitors…. I realised that they deserved better.
With Covid, the loneliness and isolation of older people with frailty and life changing illnesses has now been highlighted.
I've always believed that horses were special - for different reasons at different times in our lives. Over the years, my work as a riding coach and author developed into focusing on how people could fully appreciate the varied gifts that horses could offer. We now know that the presence of a horse can stimulate withdrawn people to talk again, to share memories. Horses are gently inquisitive and can listen to anyone calmly, without judgement. They are athletes that can gallop and jump, prance with abandon – and nuzzle with tenderness…. They empower people with life-changing injuries or illnesses to ‘feel normal’ when they ride. They bring freedom.
Soon, the wheelchair accessible 'Happiness Horsebox' that I have designed will take friendly horses to care homes and hospices for special conversations between residents, carers, family and friends It will help riders with mobility issues to be lifted up to mount easily - and so compete or just ride in beautiful countryside,
I really think Prince Phillip would have been pleased at how it all started.... To complete the circle, the computer generated image / video of it on our website was created by a 15yo as part of his DoE Community Service too!!