Meet The Team

The Great Horses For Health Event has been organised by a team of volunteers who fit it in around work, home, family and animal commitments. We have also had a huge amount of help and support from our lead charity, HorseWorld who have been instrumental in the organisation of the event. Here is a little bit of background about each member of the main organising team behind Horses4Health.

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Sophie Gifford

Sophie is the Founder of Horses for Health, which was born out of the 2020 UK lockdown and a desire to recognise the love, enjoyment and health benefits our equines bring us every day.

Sophie and her erstwhile noble steed, Jack, enjoy cross-country schooling, beach rides, pub rides and exploring new bridleways. 'Jack the Lad' is a Cob x with what Sophie thinks must be a healthy dollop of Shire based on the size of his head! Out of the 2021 Horses for Health activities, Sophie & Jack have embarked on hunter trials and gridwork clinics which they both love!

Sophie has been working in the pharmaceutical / healthcare sector since 1993, originally for Pfizer and more recently within a new global healthcare company.  Horses for Health has provided a welcome relief from the stresses of a busy full-time job.

She lives in West Sussex and is married to Andrew with two grown up stepchildren. When she is not juggling work, family life and Horses for Health planning, she enjoys skiing, tennis, reading and crafty creations. 

Jack is the centre of Sophie's world and fortunately Andrew also adores him. The connection between Andrew & Jack has been magical to witness - Andrew's job in air travel and tourism has been somewhat stressful in the last 2 years. Spending time in the field with Jack, poo picking, or just jogging with a very large companion happily trotting along behind, has been a considerable therapeutic boost to his morale and mental wellbeing. Sophie often hears a cheery 'off to see Jack' from Andrew as he heads out the door to get fresh air and horsey hugs!  

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Petra Ingram

Petra is Chief Executive of our lead charity partner, HorseWorld Trust and has been working with us to help set up The Great Horses for Health Relay.

Petra joined HorseWorld Trust in September 2020 and was previously Chief Executive at Brooke, Action for Working Horses and Donkeys for 11 years.

Since joining the charity Petra says she has been quite shocked at the level of neglect and abuse that still goes on in this country.

 

Petra started riding when she was six years old, and owned her first horse when she was 16. She now has two miniature Shetland ponies and four beautiful Haflinger horses, all at their home in Somerset.

 

Petra is also Patron of the Haflinger Society and enjoys getting involved with the local riding club.

 

Petra's horses keep her and her husband busy; they have been life savers during the COVID pandemic and are the best way to unwind after a busy day - she loves to watch them mooching about in the field. Her favourite activity is hacking around the local countryside, enjoying the views through their ears! 

 

Petra and The HorseWorld Trust are very excited to be involved with the Great Horses for Health Event 2022, and look forward to meeting like-minded riders, whilst raising vital funds for horse loving charities.

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Caroline Thompson

Caroline has been riding for over thirty years and bought her New Forest mare 'Bonnie' as a yearling almost 16 years ago. The partnership has done a bit of everything over the years from hacking and showing to showjumping and horse trials but since the birth of Caroline's son in 2018 they are now enjoying a slightly less competitive life.

 

​Caroline worked in the marketing industry for 11 years before getting married in 2010 to Jonny - a serving member of the Armed Forces. It was this that spurred her on to take the plunge to change careers to become a Personal Trainer and Exercise Referral specialist. This began her interest in mental health and the benefits that exercise can have on it. Her own struggles led her to discover first hand how both physical exercise and horses can greatly help with mental health and it was this that encouraged her to initially volunteer to help Sophie with The Great Horses For Health Relay in January 2021. She has since got back into working in the world of marketing / project management due to it fitting in better with her other life commitments.

 

Caroline was responsible for building the first Horses4Health website (and the new one this year!)  as well as being on the main organising committee for the event.

 

Caroline currently lives in Surrey with her husband, four year old son and two dogs, Odin and Piper, but has spent a lot of time living in various parts of Scotland, as well as Berkshire and Wiltshire, This is the seventh house she has lived in since she got married 12 years ago... the joys of being an Army family!

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Meg Jackson

Meg is HorseWorld’s PR and Digital Communications Manager, and on the inside remains a pony-mad five-year-old. Her equine obsession began on the day her mother foolishly spent 20p for a ride on a pony at the church fete, and her fate was sealed. For the rest of the day Meg went from pony to the back of the queue, to the pony, to the back of the queue, and her poor mother knew she had made a terrible mistake.

 

Fast forward many years and when the opportunity came to combine her career in charity Public Relations and Communications with equine welfare, she quite literally jumped at the chance and has been part of the HorseWorld team since 2019.

Whilst she still doesn’t have her own pony (despite over 37 years of heart-felt pleas at every birthday and Christmas) she rides regularly and is fascinated by the biomechanics of riding and the ‘Ride with Your Mind’ approach taught at Overdale Equestrian Centre. Meg has also been a long-term student of Kelly Marks and Intelligent Horsemanship and is continually learning all she can so she can contribute, even if it’s only in a small way, to making the world a better place for our equine friends.

Meg is also a qualified yoga teacher and loves seeing the correlation between the skills we can learn on a yoga mat, and the skills we need to have a positive relationship with our horses. She is particularly excited about the event’s focus on mental and emotional wellbeing this year and can’t wait to hear about everyone’s (big and small) adventures.

If you are part of the Horses for Health Facebook Group (and if you’re not you really should be!) you will probably be interacting with Meg or one of her team as she heads-up the social media for the event. She’s very much looking forward to virtually meeting you all.

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Stephen Poole

Stephen is Director of Stewardship at HorseWorld Trust and has worked at HorseWorld since their 60th Anniversary in 2012. Previously he worked as a freelance marketing consultant for Cable & Wireless, Cayman National Bank, EDF and others.

Stephen was not a very ‘horsey’ person on arrival, but ‘Bubbles’ (pictured above) persisted with his training and was successful in teaching him the synchronised lip-curling trick which is a firm favourite with HorseWorld visitors.

After 5 years of being constantly surrounded by horses Stephen finally rode one of HorseWorld’s ‘Discovery’ ponies, although it might be more accurate to say he sat on ‘Saul’ for almost 2 minutes and didn’t fall off!

Since joining the charity Stephen says he has been amazed by the transformative effect our rescue horses and ponies have on the children and young people who take part in the Discovery Programme. You can actually see their levels of confidence and self-esteem rising as each week passes.

Many horse owners understand and appreciate how the interaction with their horse improves their mental health and wellbeing. The Horses for Health Event aims to celebrate this and to raise vital funds for equine charities.

Stephen plays a vital role in the organisation of the Horses for Health Event, producing the leaflets and overseeing the fulfilment of the registration packs.