A pioneering Deeside charity which uses horses to help wounded and injured veterans regain confidence has received a £150,000 grant from Help for Heroes to deliver more courses.
The grant brings the total awarded by Help for Heroes to HorseBack UK based in Aboyne to more than £1 million.
Help for Heroes has been involved with HorseBack UK since the early days of the charity, after recognising its potential to provide a unique outdoor recovery pathway, using a combination of equine therapy, the outdoors and adventure training to help individuals regain confidence and mobility, and to rebuild and move forward into their future.
The additional £150,000 will fund the delivery of 10 courses, benefitting up to 100 wounded, injured and sick veterans.
Veteran George Brown went on a five-day course with Horseback UK last October after taking part in a Help for Heroes visit to their Aboyne base.
George from Glenrothes, Fife, has back injuries and mental health issues following 15 years service with the Military Police, which included tours of Northern Ireland, Germany and Cyprus.
He said: “I didn’t even think I could get on a horse, but that wasn’t a problem as they have all kinds of equipment to help. The course was excellent.
“I was with five other veterans and it was very relaxed. As well as learning the basics of horsemanship, we also got to try falconry and bushcraft.
“It is amazing to be able to ‘read’ a horse’s feelings and by the end of the five days, have a great sense of achievement and a confidence boost.
“I am going back in April to do the next course which includes riding and map-reading, and hope to complete the final phase which involves riding out into the wilds and staying overnight.”
George was put forward for the course by Sophie Mifsud, Scottish volunteering project manager of Step Together Volunteering.
The charity, which is also supported by Help for Heroes, helps wounded and injured service personnel and veterans to engage in community volunteering as a part of their recovery and resettlement.
The latest Help for Heroes grant of £80,000 awarded last month to Step Together Volunteering brings the total of grant funding to £520,446 to support the programme over the last six years.
Emma Hutchison, founder of Horseback UK, said: “Help for Heroes have been major funders of HorseBack UK from the beginning.
“Without their belief and support both financially and otherwise, HorseBack UK would not be where it is today.
“The £150,000 grant not only contributes largely to the course costs but also forms a basis on which many other grants and funds are raised.”
Claire Barnes, head of grants at Help for Heroes, added: “Help for Heroes is all about getting the very best support to the wounded servicemen and women and their families whose lives are changed by their injuries and illness.
“We are delighted to be able to work with other organisations such as Horseback UK, Step Together and the services’ own charities to ensure that the wounded and their relatives get the speedy support and opportunities they so richly deserve.”