Swanage riding instructor Stephanie honoured for work with young people

RIDING instructor Stephanie Buchanan, who lives in Swanage, has received the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to young people.

The yard manager and head riding coach at the RAC Saddle Club Bovington was presented with the award by the Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell at county hall in last week.

Stephanie said: “It’s a huge honour be awarded a BEM, and I was quite taken back when I heard the news.

“I’m just doing my job – I am fortunate that I am in a position to help so many young people by introducing them to the incredible horses and ponies we have here at the Saddle Club.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without a great team of staff and liveries behind, me many of whom volunteer hours of their time. But I must admit it hasn’t been easy.”

Stephanie began teaching at the RAC Saddle Club in 1990 and has built a reputation for producing young riders and mentoring many children through difficult times in their life.

The club provides riding lessons, livery and industry qualifications for military personnel and civilians, and Stephanie has raised more than £150,000 for new facilities.

Stephanie introduced the British Horse Society (BHS) Changing Lives Through Horses (CLTH) programme in 2019 to help local children who need additional support, are disengaged or disadvantaged, or at risk of being excluded from education.

Since its introduction 120 children have been given the opportunity to meet ponies, learn how to look after them and ride if they want to.

In 2022 Stephanie was awarded Coach of the Year for her work with CLTH for the BHS.

And in the same year she was named one of the UK’s top three coaches nominated for a Change a Life award supported by Sport England for assisting personal growth and development.

BHS freelance coach Sam Lewis, who has known Stephanie for nearly 20 years, said: “Stephanie has mentored hundreds of adults and children over the last couple of decades.

“Not only has she tirelessly thought of imaginative ways to raise money and rallied liveries to help her, but she also has spent hours, days and weeks of her own time sourcing ponies and horses for both the riding school and private clients.

“In many instances her actions have helped children who are struggling at an extremely difficult time in their life.

“Over the years some have lost family members, while others are struggling with disabilities or difficulties and simply can’t communicate with those around them.

“The horses have, with Steph’s guidance, played a key part in their recovery providing companionship, focus and structure, helping them to channel their behaviour, learn life skills and resilience.”

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