A purpose-built horsebox that will enable people with life-changing injuries and illnesses to enjoy “magical” rides with horses has launched its services around the UK.
The not-for-profit Happiness Horsebox is the brainchild of British Horse Society and Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) coach Liz Morrison. Liz came up with the idea five years ago as she had become more aware of the variety of disabilities and illnesses affecting people throughout their lives, including some of her friends.
The lorry, built by Haynes Horseboxes, has been fitted with a hydraulic platform to allow disabled riders to be lifted on to a horse, so they can enjoy rides in “special places” such as the countryside, instead of being restricted to arenas. The box also offers a warm living space, which can be overlooked by two horses, aimed at hospice and care-home visits, during which individuals can spend private time with horses. It can also be booked by para riders for competitions.
Liz started fundraising for the project, and although Covid delayed the build of the horsebox, it has now been completed and was unveiled at the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Lambourn open day in April. More than £80,000 was raised for the horsebox, including funding from the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust, Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony, the Greenham Trust, the Country Land and Business Association and Sport England – with support from WTTL driver training.
“Through my RDA coaching I became really interested in what we can do to help people with disabilities. I realised one of the biggest issues is getting people on to a horse, unless you have a lifting platform like you get in some of the bigger RDA centres,” Liz told H&H.
“Enjoying a lovely ride in the countryside is one of these magical things, but it’s the most inaccessible thing if you’ve got a disability so I said ‘Let’s put a lifting platform in the lorry’.”
Liz hopes the project can expand in the future to include more horseboxes based in different regions.
“We are interested in partnerships so we can get more funding and make the horsebox as cheap as possible for people to use when they need it,” she said. “We would like to be able to subsidise it for someone who, say, has cancer and wants to have a last magical ride with their horse somewhere beautiful and private.”
Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony donated £12,000 to the Happiness Horsebox.
“Before Hannah was so tragically lost to us she was invited by many leading equestrians to go and have a horsey experience riding their horses or visiting their yards, from the likes of Piggy March to many others,” Miles Toulson-Clarke, a Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony trustee, told H&H. “Hannah found during her darkest time those experiences gave her some light and hope, and made her forget all about her horrific illness. When Hannah set up the charity she wanted to be able to provide similar experiences under ‘Willberry’s wishes’.
“Often we’re asked by people who are extremely ill to have a horsey experience but quite often they might find the physical act of riding a horse extremely difficult, so when Liz got in touch with us we were keen to support it because it sounded like a fantastic initiative and we knew it would be very complimentary to our Willberry’s wishes programme. We always have Hannah on our shoulder, thinking whether she would approve or not, and we know she would approve of this.”
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