Meet Charlie More – Military, Medical & Much, Much More…

Autumn 2023 – pg.10

Charlie, aged 44, is working towards her IH Stage 2 qualifications. After a career in the military, she now works for the NHS. Currently living in Norfolk, but due to move to Ramsbury, Wiltshire in June, “I don’t think I’ve lived anywhere for more than three years for most of my adult life!”. Alongside her equine passions, Charlie is a keen cyclist, likes sailing and kitesurfing and loves spending time with her family and friends.

“My proudest achievement has been training Rose to a be a winning TREC horse.”

Tell us about growing up and your first horsey adventures

I began riding at the age of three when my mum and next-door neighbor (who I used to call Auntie Gee) took me to the local stables, and I had lessons on a small Shetland called George. He was a feisty chap, but I loved him nonetheless. I think that my first gymkhana was marked by the fact that I managed to get to the other side of the fence before he did, and he promptly left a hoof print on my back!

After a few years of mucking out and helping at the stables, I was excited to get my first pony, ‘Telstar’, when I was 8. She was bold in the jumping arena and perfect for adventures with friends. I think there were probably a fair few farmers who would have preferred that I didn’t drag their fallen trees to the headlands to create my own cross-country courses, but I can’t remember anyone talking to me about it directly. I was incredibly lucky, as while my family weren’t at all ‘horsey’, they were my greatest supporters – there to hold my pony, drive me about, and generally ‘help out’.

When I joined the Forces, I didn’t have the time to ride as my early career saw me deployed around the globe on a regular basis. It wasn’t until I was reaching the end of my military career that I found the time and stability to re-engage with horses.

When did you first hear about Kelly Marks?

I read Kelly’s books on tour in Iraq (2006) and was certain that this was a methodology that I wanted to emulate. At the time, I was a fair few years off getting another horse, but the idea was lodged. Later I was privileged to command the 12th Regiment Royal Artillery and, while located on Thorney Island, also had the responsibility for the Royal Artillery Equestrian Centre there. A great deal of the work was in support of well-being development and the experience of being with horses for the service personnel and their families. We spent time supporting Battle Back, Help for Heroes, and other Forces-focused charities that understood the power of horses to help people regain purpose and lost confidence. This was the perfect time to explore what I had read earlier, so in 2018 I decided to become an IH member and began to learn more about how to be a better communicator for my horse and those in my charge. It was a good job I did, as the horse I bought myself, ‘Margot’, was really going to need the benefit of the training I received!

What are the most valuable benefits of IH Membership for you?

My membership gives me access to a host of support, something which I have found invaluable when trying to better understand how to deal with the feelings my horses present me with. Previously, I had sought to ‘correct behavior’. The IH methodology and approach enable me to ‘listen’ before I act and really try to explore what my horse is trying to communicate with me. As a person who had spent 22 years thinking that I was a ‘good leader’, I found that the IH membership gave me access and the ability to understand how to be a good listener and how my actions impact the horse. I needed to use better and clearer communication skills! This is the greatest benefit to me. I should also say that I now have a cohort of friends that I have met through various IH courses who I regularly keep in touch with and lean on for advice, support, and expertise. People like Sophie Woolfe, who has changed the way I think about the racing industry through the work that she and her team are doing to use IH in preparing their horses for their future careers and to lay the foundations for successful onward training and racing.

How has IH changed your outlook in any way?

IH has made me ‘slow down’ and stop thinking that I should be doing something because it is what a training plan says I should or that’s what a 4-year-old should be doing by now (as an example). I very much try to actively listen to what they are ready for and now check myself first if I don’t get the response I was expecting. These two things have made me rethink how and what I should be doing with my horses and my people. A great deal of what I now understand about communication applies to how I interact with my team. I believe I am a much better listener for the experience. I hope to progress with other IH courses and further develop my understanding of equines. I have enrolled in an equine massage course and recently volunteered for Warrior Equine (who offer equine-assisted coaching for military veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress) so that I can share my military understanding and love of horses with those who need their help. Longer-term, I am working toward gaining my Stage Two qualification, and I would like to become an IH Trainer so that I might help horses and their owners experience a better life and relationship.

What inspired you to join the Armed Forces?

I had always wanted to be a jockey and was small enough to think about it, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, that pathway wasn’t an option. So instead, after spending some time in the Army Cadets, I decided to join the Military in 1999. Initially, this was as a Navigator with the RAF. I was keen to follow the helicopter pathway, but I could see the role of navigators changing and decided to transfer to the Army instead.

In April 2002, I joined the Royal Artillery as a young Troop Commander. I spent a great deal of my early years deployed and went to Afghanistan as a dismounted Fire Support Team Commander. On return from Afghanistan, I was definitely of a different mindset. I had reset who I was, who I wanted to be, and how I was going to do it. I was lucky to get the roles and jobs I wanted and spent a year with Australian counterparts in Canberra, undergoing what is known as staff college. I have been fortunate to take part in annual adventurous training, skiing, mountaineering, surfing, and generally exploring the world with friends. I think a highlight would be being part of the Army Bobsleigh Team and, more broadly, working with the best people in whatever post I have been in. I never lost my love of flying and was lucky enough to get the time to complete my helicopter pilot’s license and further my skills in mountaineering and equitation. I finished as a Commanding Officer and had the great privilege of being part of an exceptional team during a heightened period of pressure from abroad, matched with tension at home during the COVID pandemic. Not how I had envisaged ending my career, working from home on a laptop, but an amazing contribution from the Regiment in support of our NHS and UK resilience plans.

Tell us about your horses

I own two horses, Margot and Harry (4yr old WB – backed by me this year) and ride as often as work allows. I have been working with IH Trainer Bridget Colston to get over some issues with both, but I hope to take Harry eventing one day…

Margot was part of the driving force behind gaining an interest in IH. She has a ‘no’ stronger than mine and is an excellent communicator. Effectively she started to plant and didn’t want to move at all, not into a stable, out of a field, or with me anywhere! Bridget helped me with this after seeking advice from the vet, scoping for ulcers, checking ovaries – everything, it seemed. Progress was slow. However, after a couple of months, Bridget said, ‘Have you heard of chiropractor Ken Skinner? He might be able to help?’. He did! Margot is now on the mend following some chiropractic help with her neck and an increase in mobility around her SI. I hope to have her back up to speed and fitness soon so we can pick up where we left off.

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