Natasha tells us what it was like meeting The Duchess of Cornwall
When I first heard that HRH the Duchess of Cornwall would be coming to Ebony Horse Club I thought it was the perfect way to celebrate our 21st anniversary.
I was even more excited when I was asked to act as a host and show her around on the day.
I am at Writtle University College at the moment, so not only was I excited about playing a role in the visit, I was also really looking forward to being back at Ebony, surrounded by old friends.
On the morning of the big day, I got to Ebony at 6.30am to help get the horses and the yard ready. It was great catching up with friends, but you could feel a sense of nerves which we were able to direct into making sure all the jobs got done in time.
As we all worked together, I was overcome by how much some of the younger members had grown up and how much more they cared for Ebony and each other.
Once all the jobs were done, I started to panic a bit as the responsibility of my role hit home. The team of staff helped me go to through the schedule to make sure I understood each part of the visit and how I would introduce different aspects of the project to HRH.
As I prepared, other members were practising their roles giving demonstrations on tack cleaning, grooming and training to be a jockey.
Just beforeThe Duchess of Cornwall was due to arrive we all moved into position in the line-up, ready for the official welcome. Any last nerves were quickly replaced by excitement as her car drove up to the gates.
Sue Collins, Chair of Trustees introduced me to The Duchess as her guide for the day and we began the visit.
As I led her to Allegra’s Paddock – our new grass turnout area, paid for by a generous donation from Allegra’s Ambition, HRH asked me about my course in Equine Business Management and Performance, which helped to put me at ease.
A group of young people presented Allegra’s Paddock, introduced HRH to Pedro the Shetland Pony, and shared their knowledge about how to feed different horses.
As HRH met the ponies I loved how she apologised to them all for forgetting to bring them any polos!
We then moved on to the yard, where I introduced HRH to our current horses, explaining that some of the ponies she met last time she visited with The Queen had gone on to enjoy a slightly quieter life after the amazing work that they had done while they were with us.
We were joined by lots of Ebony members who explained how, thanks to the club, they have learnt how to groom the ponies and look after them. As HRH spoke to everyone, you could tell how much they were enjoying it as they were cheerful and full of smiles.
Our next stop was with a group of children demonstrating their tack cleaning skills. Andre, a young person with learning difficulties, explained what he was doing and how important the girth is on the saddle.
I remember looking at Sue, Chair of Trustees, as she looked very proudly at Andre. It is moments like this that make me look back and feel astonished by the positive effect horses can have on people with learning difficulties. I was also so proud of the horses and being part of Ebony and the experience they have allowed me to be part of.
Next on the tour was the pony racing demonstration, where Grace demonstrated the correct jockey position on board our ‘minature Obama’ our racing equicizer named in honour of the life-sized giant horse that is used for teaching horse anatomny.
I then led HRH to the hay barn where members, volunteers, parents, supporters and youth workers were gathered. We looked at a display of photos that showed some of the different things members had been up to, such as trips to Stowell Park, Pony Club Camp and competitions at Hickstead.
I then introduced HRH to Cameron, who she remembered from her last visit. She asked him what he was doing now and was really interested in how he had been getting on and was very pleased to hear about his progress.
As we made our way to the riding arena for a demonstration, I explained to HRH how Ebony has really helped the young people in the area and reminded her that she had been a massive help for reaching out to become our president. I truly believe that it would have taken longer to build the community riding centre if it wasn’t for her support – and EHC wouldn’t have been able to help local young people and our community as much as they have already.
After watching the display, we went into the school to meet the riders and the horses.
Sue gave a speech thanking everyone for their support for Ebony and the young people. As she spoke I could see how special her words made all of us feel. At that point you could tell how proud everyone felt and how special the day had been.
As the visit drew to an end, we once again lined up to thank The Duchess of Cornwall for coming to visit us and helping to mark our special anniversary.
I was very touched when HRH thanked me for being her host.
Once we had waved goodbye to The Duchess, I was greeted by many people and told how well I had done as a host. It was a very special feeling to be congratulated by people very important to Ebony, including parents, staff and funders. I also got interviewed by a journalist!
It was an incredible day - for an organisation that is very special to me – and a day I will never forget.