The Horse & Hound Podcast Volunteer of the Year 2022

Welcome to the Horse & Hound Awards 2022, which are back for the seventh year to celebrate the stars of equestrianism, in partnership with NAF

  • Recognising the sacrifice made by this volunteer to enable countless others to enjoy their sport or profession week in, week out.

    The 2022 winner

    Phil Wadey & Sarah Bucks: Phil, 57, and Sarah, 73, British Horse Society (BHS) access champions, advocate for the inclusion of equestrians on off-road rights of way. They have submitted more than 800 definitive map modification orders, and helped hundreds of people get involved through training and their book Rights of Way, Restoring the Record.

    Why did you become a volunteer? Phil: “Years ago, I was riding after school and found a notice by a bridleway; a farmer had applied to have it removed. I wrote to the council. The BHS bridleway officer for the area saw my response in the report, and signed me up as a volunteer access and bridleways officer!”

    Sarah: “I live in a rural community with no bridleways; it takes an hour’s hack to reach a short bridleway. This wasn’t going to improve unless I took action.”

    Memorable moment: Phil: “I’m not sure if this was my 100th path saved, or any path along the way. Getting a strip of the M1 verge turned into a riding track, the book published, and seeing others empowered to save their paths were all highlights.”

    Sarah: “The first modification order I achieved, riding a route added to the definitive map, and seeing groups help in restoring lost and unrecorded routes.”

    Also shortlisted were…

    Judith Dawson: 87, never misses a meeting with Woodchurch Driving Group Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and has been one of their key volunteers for over a decade. Judith attends every club day, fundraises and keeps the ponies fit in the winter, driving them twice a week all year round.

    Why did you become a volunteer? “My job was in occupational therapy and I’ve always had a love of horses. I’d ridden, but never really had anything to do with carriage driving. I was on a home visit and saw pictures of carriage driving on the walls – that’s how I found out about it.”

    Memorable moment: “I was driving a young autistic man; we used to have a lovely time, but he never said a word. One day we got back and somebody asked him how it was. He said, ‘Brilliant.’ Every time you drive, you’re trying to find something to bring people out of themselves, to find the key to help them to enjoy it as much as I do.”

    Sarah Hills: 42, is one of Suffolk Constabulary’s mounted volunteers. Sarah, who works full time, was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumour in 2013. During the past eight years, she and her horse Robbie, 19, have clocked up more than 5,000 miles to support the community, promote volunteers and good causes including road safety, and have raised thousands for children’s palliative care charity Together for Short Lives.

    Why did you become a volunteer? “I first heard about it at Suffolk County Show. I initially signed up for Robbie, as he needed rehabbing following injury, and I thought it would give us purpose. It’s wonderful to be able to give something back.”

    Memorable moment: “Last year we won the BHS unsung hero award and Robbie won the equine personality of the year. Robbie is simply amazing; if we do get awarded, I would absolutely promote him to receive it as the named beneficiary, not me personally, as without him, this wouldn’t have been possible. He is the life and soul of what we do.”

    Charlie Thornycroft: 40, ran the logistics hub on the Polish border in response to the war in Ukraine, helping hundreds of people and saving more than 500 horses.

    Why did you become a volunteer? “British Equestrian and World Horse Welfare put out a press release in March, saying they were going to raise funds and help the horses in Ukraine. I replied saying, ‘Great idea, if you need any admin support give me a call’. Alec Lochore rang and asked, ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ I booked a flight to Poland and went out two days later on what was meant to be a weekend fact-finding mission. It was four-and-a-half months before I first came back to the UK.”

    Memorable moment: “I had a pair of ponies there for about seven weeks. A woman arrived at 4am, she’d been travelling across Ukraine for nine weeks and had lost contact with her sister and sister’s daughter – they were separated at a train station. She had only the clothes she stood up in. She walked into the temporary stables, one of her ponies whinnied and she collapsed, saying, ‘I can start again, I can breathe’.”

    Previous winners of this award include:

    • 2021: Adrian Bigg, for his work preserving rights of way
    • 2020: Aged 81, Esme Fordham for her unstinting work at the Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary
    • 2019: Olivia Robertson
    • 2018: Keith Watkins
    • 2017: Mary Tuckett
    • 2016: Jane Cepok

    About the Horse & Hound Awards 2022

    The Horse & Hound Awards returned for the seventh year in a row, running again in partnership with NAF. Some 300 people, including Olympic and Paralympic superstars, gathered to enjoy a glamorous evening of champagne, winner reveals and dancing at Cheltenham Racecourse. As in previous years, the H&H Award winners were nominated and voted for by you, the readers. We seek to recognise both the big names who have made 2022 special and the unsung heroes who make it possible for all of us to enjoy equestrian sport and our horses, at whatever level.

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