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Saddle up

T

O PARAPHRASE an old saying; the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man – and this is very much in evidence behind the wire in Larkhill, Salisbury Plain. As a military welfare facility and registered charity, The Royal Artillery Saddle Club is open to serving personnel, families and the local community and offers all kinds of horsey activities. Staffed by soldiers, the club runs competitions, clinics and events aided by a committed team of volunteers.

A HAPPY PLACE

Sam Brindley moved to Larkhill with her daughters Taylor and Lacey to join her soldier spouse James. Taking Taylor for a Saturday morning lesson often ends up with her still being there at four in the afternoon. “It’s a community,” Sam explained, “the stables are Taylor’s happy place and it’s all she talks about. It’s where she feels normal

and part of a group.” The staff are aware of Taylor’s extra needs including problems retaining and processing information and having moderate deafness in one ear. “They are amazing with her; so patient, giving her that bit more time she needs,” added Sam.

THE PERFECT DISTRACTION

The saddle club proved a godsend when single father and soldier Matt Long was admitted to Headley Court with neurological complications following an operation. His younger daughter Belle rides in every competition and spends all the time she can at the saddle club to distract herself. Support from staff has helped her during a difficult period and has enabled Matt essential time to ‘reset’ – he’s now back at work. Stables manager Peter Pagan-Skelley has been the driving force behind competitions

Horsing around: Instructor Brooke Taubmann helps a young com petitor in the Summer Show Clear Round Picture: Ellie Osborne

and clinics, which are enjoyed by military and civilian families alike. A recent fundraiser provided for two new ponies to enable more children to ride when new families arrive in the area as part of the Army’s rebasing programme. Want to find out more about the Royal Artillery Saddle Club? Visit rasaddleclub larkhill.com or check out armyequitation. org.uk to find a place to ride near you. &

From solitude to singing With the unpredictable nature of Army life, the feeling of isolation can be common. It can be particularly tricky for those new to military life who have moved far away from family and friends for the first time. Army&You spoke to one Service spouse to find out why joining your local Military Wives Choir might be the answer… BECCA Tompkin (24) is from Leicestershire and three years ago met her husband, Daniel. In October 2016, they were posted to Kent. She said: “Being away from family was really tough and I found it quite isolating to begin with. I was looking for activities on camp where I could make new friends, but I found the

34 Army&You spring 2019

idea of going along to a coffee morning quite pressurising; to just walk into a room and talk. That was the reason I joined the choir.” There are 75 Military Wives Choirs across the UK and overseas open to any woman with a military connection with no experience necessary. Members ranging from 18 to more

than 80 experience a fun, safe space were ladies can take time for themselves to make friends and sing side-by-side with a group that understands – vital when you’re new to an area.

LIFTING YOUR MOOD Becca has just celebrated her oneyear anniversary with Brompton Military Wives Choir. She added: “All of the ladies in my choir have been nothing but lovely and supportive. The atmosphere is relaxed and we find time for a good chat too. Choir always lifts my mood and leaves me feeling relaxed and happy – sometimes it’s just what I need after a long day!” All Military Wives Choirs share a core repertoire which they sing in

rehearsals and often perform at events. The familiarity of the songs means that whatever number posting you’re on, you can always walk into a rehearsal room and feel at home. “I love the songs which we get to sing whilst experiencing new things,” Becca explained. “We Will Remember Them, which was written especially for us, really makes me emotional. Singing them when we perform or even just in rehearsals is such an amazing feeling. I’ll never forget my first Remembrance performance with the Royal Engineers band – it was very special.” Interested in joining the Military Wives Choirs network? Visit militarywiveschoirs.org to find your local group. & @ArmyandYou

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Army&You Spring 2019