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Camilla shares love of horses on trip to veterans’ rehabilitation centre

UK News | Published:

The Duchess of Cornwall met the team at HorseBack UK, which assists former armed forces personnel near Balmoral.

The Duchess of Rothesay visits HorseBack UK

The Duchess of Cornwall has indulged her love of horses with a visit to a charity that helps rehabilitate veterans through their work with the animals.

Camilla met the team at HorseBack UK on a tour of its centre by Aboyne in Aberdeenshire near the royals’ summer residence at Balmoral.

It was her first visit to the charity, which is marking 10 years of assisting former armed forces personnel in need of physical and mental rehabilitation.

The Duchess of Rothesay visits HorseBack UK
Camilla cut a special commemorative cake during a visit to HorseBack UK (Jane Barlow/PA)

The charity recently introduced an SVQ course for young people struggling at school to help build communication and teamwork skills through horsemanship.

Camilla, known as the Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland, admired an ex-race horse named Brook and patted River, who was fathered by a stallion, Hercules, at Balmoral.

She also met miniature horses Pinky and Patrick before cutting a fruit-topped Victoria sponge cake to celebrate the charity’s anniversary.

Camilla told the gathered veterans, mentors and young people: “I’ve heard so much about HorseBack UK from so many people and organisations, some of which I work with in the south.

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“I’m so impressed with all that you do here. Everybody working together as a team, and you get no better team than people working together with horses.

“I hope a lot more people will be able to benefit from this wonderful charity.”

Before leaving the centre, the duchess told staff: “Now I know where you are, I’ll be back.”

The Duchess of Rothesay visits HorseBack UK
The duchess with founder Jock Hutchison (centre) during her visit (Jane Barlow/PA)

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Founder Jock Hutchison, 56, an ex-Marine who served with 45 Commando in Arbroath, Angus, said: “I think we were on to a winner – for anybody that likes horses this is not a bad environment to bring them into.

“I was very impressed with her knowledge of horses. I think for any charity to get the support of royalty is a major boost because we are very determined for more people to know what we do and to help more people.

“So it’s a huge boost for us and we’re very grateful to Her Royal Highness for visiting.”

Mr Hutchison, from Dunfermline, Fife, moved to Aberdeenshire with his wife and young family in 2008 with the intention of breeding horses.

He said at that time there were many young people coming back from Afghanistan with life-changing injuries.

Someone suggested the estate would be a good place for Mr Hutchison and his family to get away to.

The idea for HorseBack UK then followed.

The Duchess of Rothesay visits HorseBack UK
Mr Hutchison introduces the Duchess of Cornwall to Brook the horse (Jane Barlow/PA)

Those who have been supported by the charity have gone on to help deliver the courses themselves.

Mr Hutchison said: “Everything we’ve done is to do with teamwork. I get to work with extraordinary people like the mentors and I see the influence and the impact they have on people that are hurting.

“This is the heart of what we’re about – people need community and they need purpose.

“We should understand that anybody that’s taken a very difficult journey like that has learnt a lot and they can use that knowledge to make other people’s journeys less difficult.”

Course director Jason Hare, 38, was seriously injured serving with 45 Commando in Afghanistan.

He found out about the charity’s work as he was going through rehabilitation and later moved to Aboyne from Broughty Ferry, Dundee, with his family.

Mr Hare said: “I was trying to get through rehabilitation, trying to learn to walk again and work out what I was going to do when my time came to leave the Marines.

“I found out about HorseBack UK, I’d always loved animals and I thought I’d like to find out a little bit more and came up and met Jock.

“Next thing I’m working as the team leader and I’m running programmes and structured courses.”

The Duchess of Rothesay visits HorseBack UK
Camilla meets Aboyne Academy pupils and Patrick the pony (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Hare, originally from North Wales, added: “Things that we’ve learnt through recovery we can pass on to other members of the community – whether that’s children disengaged from the education system or possibly injured in sport.

“We’re going from strength-to-strength.

“It’s sometimes hard to think it’s been 10 years but it’s been well spent and it’s about looking forward to another 10 years of doing more and bigger and greater things.”

The duchess then visited Maggie’s Aberdeen at the city’s royal infirmary, her first return to the facility since opening it in 2013.

She also met some of the families the charity helps, and enjoyed a cup of tea with Gillian Hadden – who was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.

The 44-year-old, whose sons Kieren, 16, and Josh, 19, were also in attendance, said: “I know how important the support Maggie’s offers to people with cancer is, as I have been there myself and I think it is lovely that Her Royal Highness has returned to see our Aberdeen centre again.”

Camilla’s day ended with a tour of the new Aberdeen Journals office in Marischal Square.

She first presented an award to the winners of the P&J’s Junior Journalist competition, where youngsters were tasked with designing a newspaper front page about a topic close to their hearts.

Ten-year-olds Ava Duncan and Finlay Mannion were presented with a trophy and teddy bears by Camilla, who was impressed by their story about plastic pollution.

Ava said: “It was very exciting and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Camilla said she liked our topic about plastic as it’s a very major issue.”

Elsewhere in the office, Camilla was treated to a spread of photographs and historic articles selected by DC Thomson’s archives team, remarking at the pictures of her husband Charles, the Duke of Rothesay, as a boy at Balmoral.

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