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And we're off!

By Sophie Gifford

It's only been 124 days since the idea of the Great Horses for Health Relay first popped into my mind... and what a journey it's been! I never dared to dream that we would have HRH Duchess of Cornwall offer to be our Patron, nor that the professional equestrian world would get behind us - from Dickie Weygood to Laura Tomlinson and now a number of the UK's Mounted Police Units voicing their support on social media, it feels like the worst year of our lives is starting to recede into the background.


People often ask me where I find the time to put into this, on top of a demanding full-time job and my own horse, as well as various health issues which have crept in. The truthful answer is that I have a husband who has taken over all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry & shopping, fearing that if he didn't he would be on an enforced diet! All kidding aside, the planning and organising has only been possible with a network of supportive people - both at home but also across the country in the form of our willing and committed Regional Co-Ordinators - all striving to bring this initiative to life. It's definitely not easy - social media sometimes makes the simplest of messages very difficult to get across and of course there are lots of rules to comply with, not least insurance, GDPR & data protection. Also, being respectful of the fact that businesses are just re-starting and their focus understandably is in re-opening and paying their bills after what has been a terrible time for them financially. As such, getting venues and rides set up to the level we would have liked has been a challenge, to say the least. We're proud of what we have pulled together so far and every day yields more details of Park & Rides, events and activities in the regions - it's a truly evolving picture!


For me, the trick to managing all aspects of my life has been to understand how best I perform. I'm very much a morning person and so rise with the lark and deal with emails and queries, log on for a busy work day of calls and TEAMS meetings and plan for the evening calls with our regional co-ordinators, sponsors and partners. I've forced myself to make time towards the end of the day to get to the yard to spend time with my boy Jack - whether it be a grooming session, a lesson or a hack amongst the deer, storks, pigs and cattle which wander around my bridleways. These times are my 'switch-off' at the end of the day & signal to me mentally that I need to change my environment and escape. I often mull over issues or ideas whilst with Jack and come home rejuvenated and ready to do some more planning! I really notice when I let that protected time slip - my mood drops, I become irritable and tetchy - poor Andrew (hubby) will attest to that! This has been a poignant reminder to me of the benefits of having a horse in my life - Jack teaches me every day and brings me back down to the basics just by nuzzling into my neck or whickering as I approach. The physical lift I feel in my spirits is unparalleled - without him I would feel rudderless and without direction. So for me, Horses for Health is about celebrating these beautiful animals and all they do for us and in some small way, giving humankind the ability to repay that debt of gratitude.

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