Celebrating its tenth year, Forces Equine is a not for profit organisation dedicated to supporting riders who are linked to the military and emergency services. The organisation also encourage associate members who have no direct links to the forces or emergency services to support this super organisation. No matter what your level, affiliation or services, Forces Equine will support and encourage the equestrian community.
Next month, The Forces Equine Games will be held at Moreton Morrell College in Warwickshire showcasing the UK Public Services Community through equestrian sport. Samantha Hobden from Haynet recently caught up with Debi Heath French, founder of Forces Equine, to find out more about the future of the organisation and the exciting plans of the forthcoming games.
The military is very much in your heart. Tell us about your life in the forces.
I started my military service in 1994 in the Territorial Army Royal Engineers before joining the Royal Corps of Signals as a Regular Soldier in 1996 for a further 5 years. I am married to David who is a serving Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
In 2008 Forces Equine was born. The original concept was for Forces Equine to be an informative sign post website for serving and dependants members to find riding yards, riding instructors, equine suppliers and riding competition information in their local areas following their every 2 year postings across the country, Germany and Cyprus. In 2012, British Showjumping approached us to form a partnership and the rest is history. We have grown into a UK recognised organisation dedicated to supporting UK Armed & Public Services personnel, serving, ex-serving and their dependants offering so much within the equestrian community. We are now in partnership with BS, BD, BE and BRC with top equine brand companies supporting our endeavours supporting up to 1300 members across the country competing in Show Jumping, Dressage and Eventing from grassroots up to international standard.
I wanted to give something back to a community that is very close to my heart that I am passionate about and doing this through Forces Equine alongside my volunteers from several different services allows this to happen.
What made you change direction and concentrate on Forces Equine?
I left the Army due to a back injury and the fact I could not give 100% to my military career. I am a great believer in if you are going to do something you need to give it 100%. I started my own web design and hosting company in 2008 and therefore building a website for Forces Equine was going to be easy. Like our volunteers, Forces Equine is something we dedicate our spare time to, but the amount of effort we all put in you would think it was our full time career.
Tell us about Forces Equine and what it stands for. Why was the organisation started?
www.ForcesEquine.com is an online equine site dedicated to the Combined and Individual Services Equitation. Here you will be able to find the information & links you need to keep you up to date with what’s going on within Royal Navy, The British Army, Royal Air Force, Police, Fire Service, Ambulance Service & UK Public Services Equestrian World. We keep you up to date with events, competitions, leagues, courses and discounts at saddle clubs and yards around the community. The organisation is for its members and therefore their input always counts. As I said earlier, the brand was simply to support married and single serving members to find yards, riding centres and competition information on posting.
We imagine there must have been triumphs and challenges running Forces Equine. What part of it are you most proud of and what part has been the toughest challenge?
Our members amaze me. Their dedication to their sport alongside their busy careers, whether they are serving or a parent of a rider, they give their discipline(s) 100%. We have had members win dressage at PSG, wins at the Global Champions Tour, qualifications to HOYS, wins at the Horse & Hound Unaffiliated Dressage Championships, qualifications to our British Dressage Associated Championships, wins at SCOPE and so much more, we are immensely proud. Our biggest hurdle has been getting the awareness of the organisation out there. We are not for profit so do not have massive budgets for advertising. This is all about to change as a publisher has offered us a magazine at no cost to the organisation which we will distribute, and it is FREE to get a copy.
The Championships are coming up in October. Tell us about the event and how riders can take part?
The Championships is a 2-day event and is based around our British Dressage Associated Championships. It has a day of unaffiliated Show Jumping, an afternoon Gala that showcases our members and involves a Q&A session, evening entertainment and then the following day is our unaffiliated and affiliated dressage championships. All proceeds go to the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance and there will be so much going on for riders and non riders. The Championships takes place at Moreton Morrell College in Warwickshire on 20th & 21st October 2018. It is totally free to come along and watch and a few surprises on offer.
For all the information required and how to enter please visit our website www.fegames.uk.
You have a super range of Ambassadors that promote Forces Equine. How important are they to the Organisation?
Our Ambassadors are really very important to us, they support us in so many ways. Lucinda grew up in the Army and so Forces Equine was something close to her heart, Jo Williams is a wife of an ex-serving RAF officer, so she too wanted to show her support in training and as the team manager for our Blenheim team. Geoff Billington is a great friend to the organisation and supports in so many different ways and Scott Brash held clinics for us at his home and always shows his support when we are out and about at competitions that both our members and he are competing at.
If riders want to join Forces Equine, how can they get involved?
Riders just need to simply go to our website and fill out our membership form. It costs less than £0.87p per week to be a senior member and less than £0.68p per week to be a FEYRA member (Forces Equine Young Rider). Visit www.forcesequine.com for more and we welcome all riders and all levels to the organisation.
What are the hopes and for the future of Forces Equine?
To grow, to carry on the great work that we do and watch our members achieve great things. The organisation has been a finalist at the Horse & Hound Awards and the Equestrian Social Media Awards, so we are doing the right thing. The future is looking great and we want the organisation to become stronger and offer more with our business partners and our members. We are also developing our Elite Programme which will allow our very top riders to gain support from companies to help them achieve what they are capable of in competing and winning at the very top of their disciplines.
On a rare day off, where would we find you?
With my husband, family, friends both 2 legs & 4. Relaxing and enjoying life in the East Midlands or London.
Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
Still working hard and celebrating 20 years of Forces Equine, we can hope ha ha.
Against The Clock Questions
Champagne or Gin Champagne
Silver or Gold Silver
Sunshine or Snow Sunshine
Night In or Night Out Night Out
Spend or Save Spend
Music or Films Music
Big Horses or Small Ponies Big Horses
Please visit: https://forcesequine.com/