Royal horse helps to heal wounded veterans

Princess Anne has donated her thoroughbred Straight Man to HorseBack UK, which works to heal wounded veterans
Princess Anne has donated her thoroughbred Straight Man to HorseBack UK, which works to heal wounded veterans
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Straight Man gets new role in life following injury - just like the soldiers he will work with.

He was raised by a member of the Royal family but has now arrived at his new home in Aberdeenshire to help traumatised and injured veterans on the road back to recovery.

Straight Man has been personally gifted to HorseBack UK by Princess Anne, who visited the pioneering charity near Aboyne earlier this year and was sufficiently moved by its work to donate one of her own animals to the cause.

HorseBack UK has helped around 450 veterans who have returned from tours of duty with both physical and mental scars.

It three-week courses uses horsemanship and exposure to the tranquil country surrounds to help the soldiers rebuild their confidence and self esteem.

Importantly, the soldiers work with men and women who have gone through similar experiences - and gives them a renewed sense of mission.

Straight Man was bought by Princess Anne several years ago but an injury to his tendon aged just two means he has been unable to compete in events as hoped.

Now for both Straight Man and the soldiers arriving at HorseBack UK, a fresh start beckons.

He is currently settling in to his new environment and will be trained by Jay Hare, a former Marine of 14-years service who suffered life-changing injuries on three tours of Afghanistan. He is now the charity’s operation’s manager.

Lynn Dukes, who is in charge of welfare liason at Horseback UK, said: “Straight man is just getting a chance to be a horse again and I think that is the connection he has with Horseback UK -everyone is getting a new start, a new chance.

“He is settling in really well. He came off the lorry and was absolutely happy from the minute he got here.

“Because he has had an injury, we will be bringing him in slowly. It is not particularly hard work but it is very specialised as he has to remain calm.

“He’s getting the chance of a new direction in life, as we hope the veterans that come to HorseBack UK can have.”

An experienced horsewoman, the Princess is said to have become extremeley interested in the way of working at HorseBack UK during her visit.

Mr Hare recently met Princess Anne and Straight Man at her Gatcombe Park stables in Gloucestershire, where his future at the charity was discussed.

It is anticipated that Straight Man will efforlessly join in the work of Mr Hare and his colleagues, given the bright and gentle reputation of thoroughbreds.

Mr Hare will work with the horse under the watch of trainer Robert Gonzales and Jock Hutchison, who founded the charity with his wife Emma.

In time, Straight Man will journey with a veteran on a three-week course, which will peak with an overnight expedition planned by the riders.

A statement from Horseback UK said: “We are deeply excited about this opportunity, and cannot thank the Princess Royal enough for giving us the job. It fits in with every inch of the HorseBack UK ethos, something which the Princess astutely spotted from the start.

“There is a job for everyone,’ she said, which is exactly what we believe about our veterans, and our horses too, whatever their history.”