Page 26 - Chiron Autumn 2018
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                                  Proudly working with the RAVC for 100 years
  In 1914 patrons of The Home of Rest for Horses gifted the world’s first motorised horse ambulance to the Army Veterinary Service to help move injured horses on the battlefield.
   En route, Maj Bullard and Sgt Monument to British and Polish troops Enlightening day at the zoo L-R Gnr Gower, Desborough leading the way at the Airborne museum, Arnham Sgt Gostling, SSgt Higson, Maj Bullard, Sgt
Moore, Sgt Desborough, Gnr Thomas.
Netherlands Deployment – Force by Horse
The Militaire Prestatie Tocht Te Paard (MPTTP) is an endurance riding event taking place annually in the Netherlands. It is open to Military personnel from all over Europe. Originally set up to introduce soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the benefits of horses and riding.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery (KTRHA) was invited to enter and so a team was assembled of Maj Bullard (RAVC), SSgt Higson KTRHA, Sgt Desborough KTRHA, Sgt Gostling KTRHA, Sgt Moore RAVC, Gnr Gower KTRHA and Gnr Thomas KTRHA.
Due to the distance and varied terrain, it was vital to have the horses (and ourselves) fit and conditioned. Planning started months before deployment and was a real team effort with input required from all departments. The most challenging aspect was passing the European matrix test!
We departed Woolwich for an uneventful journey, until the combi van urgently required Adblue. SSgt Higson was very
organised and had packed plenty ‘just in case’. Getting it into the vehicle however proved trickier. The old adage ‘adapt, improvise and overcome’ kicked in and the veterinary team came to the rescue with a stomach tube!
Other than a short but interesting detour through central Ghent (cultural diversity box ticked), the remainder of the journey was uneventful and all arrived in good spirits.
To allow the horses to rest before the event, we had arrived a day early. After feeding, mucking out and exercising the horses the following morning, we made a visit to Arnham.
The Airborne museum houses an incredible and thought- provoking collection of photographs, video footage, uniforms, weapons and military equipment that was recovered from the area from Op Market Garden in 1914. The attempt by allied forces to ease passage into Germany by taking bridges over the Rhine. It also tells the story from the point of view of the civilian population as well as the Troops. It was a day well spent.
That night the organisers hosted all competitors with an amazing barbeque and of course lots of alcohol. It was a great opportunity to meet the other teams. A super night was had by all, finishing up with the inevitable bad dancing and even worse singing.
The event is a 40km endurance ride across country, through military training grounds, large areas of which was in the drop zone used during the Airborne assault of Op Market Garden. A large segment took us through the beautiful Stichting Het National Park. We rode for 20km (navigated by Gnr Gower) before arriving at the mandatory rest point. There were several obstacles to negotiate including a cement mixer full of rocks, riding through a curtain of fire hoses, horseback grenade throwing and tilting the ring. Next was a well-earned rest, hay and water for the horses and a packed lunch for the riders. There was also the opportunity for riders to have a go at pistol shooting and archery.
Our ride home was delayed due to a severe storm forecast. As it was only a light drizzle, we pointed out that, being British we could handle a bit of rain and away we went. Luckily our horses didn’t bat an eyelid at the thunder and horizontal rain that hit us 15 minutes later.
Before travelling home, we made a trip to the Royal Burger zoo, which has an amazing collection of animals, housed in incredible enclosures designed to closely replicate their natural environment. The zoo has put huge resources into studying comparative animal behaviour and ecology and used this knowledge to maximise the effectiveness of their management. Food for thought that we could maybe apply this to military working animals.
This deployment was a fantastic opportunity to travel and ride and to interact with overseas Military personnel and their horses. There is always something to be learned from other Troops with regards to how they do things, this always leads to the question – how could we improve on the way we do things? We enjoyed some great team bonding, superb riding and have made friends and contacts reaching out across Europe which will hopefully lead to more events like this in the future.

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