A Fylde coast former soldier took part in a horsemanship course in the Highlands, designed to support ex-servicemen.
Steven McLaughlin, now an accomplished author and military commentator, learned the art of ‘Western-style’ horsemanship with Horseback UK, a charity which helps former soldiers overcome injuries, reconnect with their old selves and rediscover the sense of purpose they enjoyed while serving.
Steven, 45, said: “I’ve always wanted to learn how to ride and been fascinated by the magic of horses. So when I heard about Horseback UK and the amazing work they do with veterans, I knew that it was the course for me.”
Horseback UK provides a training programme in a natural outdoors setting, designed to be therapeutic and challenging in equal measure.
Steven, from Lytham, said: “When I arrived in Scotland I didn’t have the faintest clue about horses. I only knew that I wanted to ride these creatures.
“Western riding is very different to English riding in that there’s no ‘bit’ in the horse’s mouth, merely reins and a loose halter, so persuading the horse to manoeuvre is not accomplished by the promise of pain, but co-operation. It’s forging a bond between man and beast based on kindness and trust.”
HorseBack UK was founded by former Royal Marine commando Jock Hutchinson.
Steven added: “I felt honoured to be in Jock’s presence and was in awe of his skills.
“The man is a real life horse-whisperer and one of the most impressive individuals I’ve ever met.”
Before becoming a soldier Steven gained a karate black-belt and was a nightclub doorman in Blackpool.
In later years he joined the Royal Green Jackets infantry regiment and served on military operations in Iraq and Northern Ireland.
He has written two bestselling memoirs based on his experiences: Squaddie: A Soldier’s Story and Clubland UK: On the Door in the Rave Era.
He has completed charity projects with the Prince’s Trust and the Warrington Peace Centre.