Ploughing through the New Year Honours list, one name stands out amidst the great, the good and the luvvies. That’s Valerie Allen from Radyr, near Cardiff, who has been awarded a British Empire Medal for her “voluntary service to rider and equine safety.”

Valerie has helped hundreds of riders train to take their BHS road safety tests and is quoted as saying: “I love being with animals, riders and in the outdoors, If I can save just one rider’s life, that will be the most important thing to me.”

And as if that isn’t enough, she’s also helped raise £140,000 for horse welfare through the Horse and Pony Rescue Society. Everyone who rides, owns or just loves horses should applaud the recognition that has been given to Valerie. I can just imagine Her Majesty having a few special words with a fellow horse enthusiast, can’t you?

It made me realise, too, that we should all make more effort to recognise and thank the people who give so much time and effort so that the horse world can function. It’s very easy to turn up at a local show and take for granted the stalwarts who’ve been there the day before and set up the showjumping courses or the dressage arenas, or who stand there all day chalking numbers on blackboards or sit in a dressage judge’s car to write down comments on scores.

Before any judges take me to task – yes, we appreciate you, too. But at least you usually get a thank you, your travelling expenses paid and perhaps a bottle of wine to take home. Most helpers do it out of altruism, perhaps because they want to support the riding club which has given them or their children so much fun over the years or simply to give something back to the horse world.

If Andrew Nicholson can make a jump judge’s day, the rest of us should remember to say ‘Thank you’ to those who give up their time.
If Andrew Nicholson can make a jump judge’s day, the rest of us should remember to say ‘Thank you’ to those who give up their time. Photo courtesy of

One of my New Year resolutions is to remember to thank the dressage writers, stewards and others who enable us to have fun with our horses. Having sometimes swapped roles, it does make it worthwhile when a rider gives you a smile and a few words – a friend and I still have palpitations about the day we jump judged at a BHS horse trials.

Not only did the legendary Andrew Nicholson stop at ‘our’ fence as he walked the course, he thanked us for being there. In fairness, that might have been because we were smiling at him in such an obviously adoring way, he felt he had to say something.

If Mr Stickability can make a jump judge’s day, so can the rest of us. So start drawing up your own New Year honours list now!