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“Don’t ever apologise for horses” was Princess Anne’s take-home message to the equestrian world from the 2017 National Equine Forum.

While Sir Bobby Charlton might not be the first person who springs to mind when you think of horses, it was from the football legend that HRH The Princess Royal, NEF president, took inspiration.

princess anne

The Princess told the forum that it was at an event for Manchester’s Olympic bid some years ago that he made the remark.

“He said ‘do not ever apologise for horses’. He then expanded on why — not just through [the enjoyment they gave] his daughter, but how the family got involved and how everybody had a role to play,” she said.

“I thought it was a really interesting comment from someone who said he never had any involvement in horses. He really understood.”

Her comments followed a presentation by Lynn Petersen, chief executive of the British Horse Society, on the charity’s Changing Lives Through Horses initiative.

The scheme aims to improve the lives of young people, aged between 14-16 years old, who are disengaged and at risk of becoming excluded from school.

Young people are given the chance to be around and work with horses to try and help them become engaged with society again.

The charity is working through secondary schools and youth organisations as well as the mental health campaign Heads Together on the project.

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The forum heard the story of 16-year-old Liam, who summed up the help from the scheme as: “you have not changed my live, you’ve saved my life”.

Princess Anne added: “It is their [the young people’s] contribution that makes a difference because horses cannot manage without us.

“For those youngsters to find somebody needs them is a real revelation. And if that is horses then that is fine.”

For a full report from the National Equine Forum, don’t miss next week’s issue of Horse & Hound, out Thursday 9 March