The British Empire Medal has been awarded to a Bovington horse riding coach for her work with young people.

Stephanie Buchanan, yard manager and head riding coach at the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) Saddle Club Bovington has been recognised for her work with young people and her contribution to society in the King's New Year's honours list.

The honour is bestowed by His Majesty The King in recognition of outstanding public service to people who make a real difference to local communities. 

Says Stephanie: “It's a huge honour be awarded a British Empire Medal, 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, who lives in Swanage, began teaching at the RAC Saddle Club in 1990 and over the years has built a sterling reputation for producing young riders and mentoring many children through difficult times in their life.

Jo Wood, a former student and groom at the RAC Saddle Club, said: "I for one would not be where I am today without the opportunities, experiences and horses Steph and the club made available for me and the trust and empowerment that came with it."

In addition to the club providing riding lessons, livery and industry qualifications for both military personnel and civilians, Stephanie has worked tirelessly to fund raise over £150k to invest in new facilities.

The centre has provided Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) facilities and ponies for many years and Stephanie introduced the British Horse Society (BHS) Changing Lives Through Horses (CLTH) programme in 2019 to help local children who, for various reasons, 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 wish to do so.

She added: "For many years I have been so proud of how Bovington produces young people to ride and care for their horses and we have had some amazing results and personal achievements along with a yard of happy horses but I never dreamed that 2023 with culminate in such an award. I’m overwhelmed.”