We are proud to introduce British Army veteran, Business Analyst and UK’s National Ms Finalist, Rebecca Halliwell-Coutts, to the ranks of our War Horse Memorial Ambassadors.
Rebecca started riding at the age of just four years old. She tells us: “I still clearly remember the day my father put me on a Shetland for a pony ride and right there and then, a lifetime love of horses was born.
I have continued to ride all through my life, mainly in the showjumping discipline but my career in the Army allowed me to indulge in my passion and get paid to do it. I was selected to showjump for the Army back in the early 2000’s which saw me ride at Royal Windsor in the Combined Services Showjumping, a huge achievement back then. I initially learnt to play polo during my time in Service and fell in love with the speed and exhilaration of the sport and began to train regularly with the Adjutant General’s Corp in Tidworth. In 2011, I was posted to the Household Cavalry Regiment in Knightsbridge to join the Blues & Royals and The Household Division for several ceremonial seasons. The role was my dream job, it had been something that I dreamt of doing since I was a little girl and here I was doing it for real some 30 years later.
“I was medically discharged from the Army in 2014 following injuries sustained in Service which meant that I was unable to carry out my basic duties. I continue to suffer from spinal stenosis, three prolapsed discs in my lower lumbar and I now require a double knee replacement. Every day is met with some degree of pain but I’m working through that by attending regular rehabilitation sessions and keeping myself in a good state of health. I continue to ride because it is my love and passion and I cannot imagine a life not being able to ride horses or take part in sport.
“About a year after my medical discharge (2015), I began playing polo again through Cool Hooves at the Royal Berkshire Polo Club, on a weekly, therapeutic basis and instructed by the ever patient Eddie Kennedy. Prior to the global pandemic hitting, UK shores, these sessions were supported by Help for Heroes Sports Recovery who provide funding for wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to play polo as part of their recovery. Working with horses is well recognised in providing enormous benefit for mental and physical well being. Polo adds a further dimension to this as a high paced team sport that combines demand for physical fitness with a need for discipline and focus. Polo has demonstrated that it can positively impact a person’s life by improving their self confidence, this is so often lost with injured service personnel leaving the Forces, their ability to work as a team and in many other ways personal to them.
“Fellow Ambassador, Clifford O’Farrell and I have been working hard to bring a new polo team to fruition. Phoenix Rising Polo Team is our new team and the initial players shirts were generously sponsored by the Household Cavalry Foundation who were only too delighted to offer their support and endorsement. We want to be able to create a pathway for other injured polo players to come through and who want to expand and better their game and build a team that is not specifically limited to wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans. Hopefully the 2021 season will be a more successful one. We would certainly welcome sponsorship opportunities from any potentially interested parties to help us develop the team to its full potential.
“Lockdown hit all of us hard and we were forced to adapt and find new ways to keep ourselves challenged. Over this duration, I was looking for other ways to push myself out of my comfort zone and also to have a focus to work towards. I applied to the UK’s National Miss 2021 Beauty Pageant and within a couple of months, I recieved the email that said I had made it through to the Finals in March with the title of UK’s National Ms Berkshire 2021. I have never taken part in a pageant before so despite all the crazy challenges I have done in the past, this has to be the scariest!
I take this title and opportunity seriously and I will use this time to elevate my platform and help to promote the charities that have been so generous in helping me with my transition into civilian life. I have, of course, chosen to represent the Household Cavalry Foundation and in partnership, the War Horse Memorial and I intend to wear my purple poppy Ambassador’s badge on my sash with pride.
You can follow my progress via Instagram on @uks_national_msberkshire2021 and hopefully see me bring home the crown in March next year.