June’s horse-assisted work recognised

June’s horse-assisted work recognised

6 March 2019

A COMBER woman’s belief in the power of horses to help people connect better with others has led to her being nominated for a major national award.

June Burgess has been shortlisted for a prestigious 2019 Soldiering On award.

June’s horse-assisted workshops help veteran and existing members of the Armed Forces suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The former international three-day event rider hosts a range of workshops at her Horses for People stables on the Killinchy Road.

The 53 year-old will find out at a gala dinner in London on April 5 whether she has won the Animal Partnership award.

June says she has had such a great experience already from just being an award finalist that winning would be icing on the cake.

“I had no idea I had been nominated but it’s a real honour,” she said. “I really didn’t expect anything more so it was a total surprise when I made the final as I attended a reception in the House of Lords which was very exciting.

“There’s been such a big thing made about being a finalist that it really doesn’t matter whether I win or not.”

The Soldering On Awards aim to honour all of the armed services community or those who work to support the community.

June has spent a lifetime devoted to horses, from competing in over 60 competitions to just riding for the love of it.

All but one of her horses are former competitors in the Irish, UK and European circuit.

Part of June’s reason to develop her horse-assisted workshops was to give them a special role in their retirement. 

“My old boys have done their job all their lives so I think they deserve a home for life,” she said.

“It’s nice for them as they enjoy it and it’s as close as they get to competitions now. Because they were used to competitions, they love engaging with people and they get to perform for the day as well.”

The businesswoman owned and developed the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast and was a director of several other successful companies.

She began to become more involved in business and leadership coaching after being asked to mentor Ulster Rugby in 2008. 

“From being to become involved in coaching, I began to learn about equine therapy about six years ago. It’s now quite mainstream in the US, although it is still very new here,” she explained.

While some equine-therapy is based on people riding horses, interestingly the courses that June delivers for Armed Services veterans and others does not involve the person even getting on to a horse.

“I focus my workshops more on leadership as I’m very conscious that I’m not a therapist,” said June.

“Horses are extremely therapeutic animals and after I saw a video called Wild Horse Warriors which shows the amazing effects of horses working with war veterans, I thought that I would love to do that as well as it combines my love of horses and my leadership coaching skills.

“The whole idea of my course is that I don’t focus on the post-traumatic stress that veterans may have. I focus on building life-skills and being able to cope with whatever life throws at you. 

“So I developed a two-day workshop of exercises where people interact with horses to help them with their communications. Engaging with horses is exactly the same as engaging with people and they will let you know if you’ve got it right or not.”

To get more information about Horses for People courses visit www.horsesforpeople.co.uk.