AFTER learning to ride – and fall from – horses as part of his military training, Jasper Preedy was an ideal volunteer for Riding for the Disabled.

And it was his desire to give something back to a charity which helped his stepmother to ride after a Motor Neurone Disease diagnosis that led him to the Richmond and Catterick branch.

Jasper, 24, was born in Stevenage, but was moved to Catterick Garrison upon becoming part of 5th Regiment Royal Artillery.

He had spent 18 months previous to that at the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, based at Woolwich Barracks in London, and this was where he learned all he knew about horses.

Despite not having even sat on a horse before, he was taught to ride, how to fall, and absolutely everything connected with horses from farriery to veterinary care.

By his own admission this provided a good grounding with high standards always expected.

An appearance in Downton Abbey was one of the highlights in 18 months with the Kings Troop when Jasper was part of the team reenacting the Queen’s coronation.

After his time with the Kings Troop, Jasper moved up to Catterick, staying with the forces and becoming a part of 5th Regiment Royal Artillery.

He now volunteers with Richmond & Catterick Riding for the Disabled (RDA) with adults and children having lessons each week on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Catterick Garrison Saddle Club.

He said: “There were strong ties to my family, in particular my stepmother.

“After she was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease she rode with Riding for the Disabled. When she was unable to ride any longer and knowing what she got out of it, I felt that I should take up the mantle and volunteer out of respect for the cause.

“Being a volunteer, and working with the riders, provides an opportunity for me to learn disability-awareness.

“As well as this I find being a volunteer is personally satisfying and fulfilling.

“Knowing the therapeutic benefits of horse riding for people with disabilities I see how much our riders gain from the sessions on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“I am often with the same rider, so we develop a good rapport and consistency, which is key for our riders.

“Of course, it is great to be part of the volunteer team, young and old, but also to work with the riders and, of course, a big part are the horses.

“Regarding the horses, I must give a ‘shout out’ to Lacie Hawkes and her team at the Catterick Garrison Saddle Club for preparing the horses and cleaning the tack for us. Most of the suitable horses we use are stabled there, including one the Richmond & Catterick RDA own. And I know that the search is on to purchase another suitable horse or pony so that we can accommodate even more riders.

“When my work schedule allows, I normally lead one particular rider – tacking up his pony beforehand. Other volunteers walk alongside making sure the rider is secure in the saddle and providing the confidence sometimes needed.

Our riders have specialised equipment, such as safety stirrups. There is a dedicated team that fits this equipment before the riders mount their horses or ponies.

“There are several boys and girls studying for their Duke of Edinburgh awards. Often without any horse knowledge – which is not a requirement as training is given – they undertake a variety of tasks, such as putting out bending poles in the indoor school.

“In particular, I taught Tristan about tacking up a pony, fitting safety stirrups, taking off the saddle and bridle and putting on the regular stirrups and some basic horsemanship.

“One of the main benefits it that volunteering is flexible. This is handy for me with my army commitments and my lifestyle that means I can’t volunteer every week.

“There is a Whats App group for everyone, so each Monday we can say whether or not we can volunteer. This is useful for the coaches to plan who can tack up, lead and sidewalk and which horses to use, depending on the riders attending.

“Currently, I am studying to be a personal trainer while continuing my service in the British Army. Eventually I want to become a physiotherapist/rehabilitation specialist.

"My experience with the RDA will be invaluable as my role will include working with disabled people and their horses.”

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