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News > Life After Hymers > Platinum Jubilee Stories: Gemma's Links to HM The Queen Through Horses

Platinum Jubilee Stories: Gemma's Links to HM The Queen Through Horses

Gemma Stanford studied at Hymers College from 1997 to 2003
One of Gemma's ponies being congratulated by HM The Queen
One of Gemma's ponies being congratulated by HM The Queen

Gemma Stanford joined Hymers College in Year 8 and stayed to complete her A Levels at the school.  She always had a love for horses while at school, always rushing home to go and ride her horses.  After leaving Hymers College, she gained a 1:1 BSc (HONS) Equine Science at Hull University, at the agricultural college Bishop Burton campus. She purposefully made the decision to stay close to home so she could continue to develop their horse breeding stud as well as compete her horses whilst doing her degree.

Since leaving University, she has been very fortunate to have consistently worked within the equine sector, but not in the practical sense.  She started her career working for NFU Mutual where she developed her career in a multitude of roles over 8 years before joining the UK’s largest and most influential equestrian charity, The British Horse Society, in a leadership role in 2014. Their Patron is HM The Queen.

I am now their Director of Welfare, managing a large team across the breadth of the UK, including over 150 volunteer Welfare Advisers. The British Horse Society improves horse welfare through education and support and makes a huge impact on the lives of horses through a wide range of campaigns and initiatives. In addition I have been a Director for the National Equine Welfare Council for over 5 years. 

Being able to combine a career with your passion is an absolute dream.  One of the largest projects I have been involved with has been the development of Healthcare and Education Clinics.  The charity I work for does not rescue - we want to try and stop as many horses needing to be rescued – our aim is to break the cycle.  We work collaboratively with fellow welfare charities across the UK to reach out to vulnerable owners and communities who may not normally seek regular healthcare for their horses and/or are known to be breeding indiscriminately.

I have now held 35 clinics which have had over 1500 horses attend and over 700 stallions have been castrated. This campaign has received significant nationwide interest, so much so that HRH Princess Anne attended a clinic last year to witness first hand this incredibly proactive initiative. 

Gemma's role involves media work and lobbying through the All Party Parliamentary groups andshe is involved in a huge breadth of welfare initiatives from ’The Horse Comes First’ at The Grand National, through to Appleby Fair. She deals with a wide range of stakeholders, including DEFRA, The British Horse Council and The British Equine Veterinary Association.

At the same time she has grown and developed thier ‘Finglands Stud’ which breeds highland ponies and is based in Brough, East Yorkshire. Their show record has spanned more than two decades and most notable results include Supreme at the Royal International Horse Show, Supreme at Olympia/London International Horse Show and winning at Horse of the Year Show. Their most successful horse is Benbreac of Croila; he has featured on the cover of 'Horse and Hound’ magazine and in one year he was champion at Royal Windsor, Royal Highland, Royal Cornwall and Royal Norfolk. 

Their Highland Ponies have won and stood champion six times at Royal Windsor Horse Show, including two supreme championships. HM The Queen also breeds highland ponies and she has had ponies entered into our classes on every single one of these occasions and it has been a truly memorable experience for Gemma to show and win under her watchful eye.

One of their highland stallions has also been on breeding loan at HM The Queen’s Balmoral Stud and Gemma attended the Garden Party at Balmoral for the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee. On one such occasion after winning again at Royal Windsor, where Her Majesty's pony was also in the class (and came 3rd), she came to congratulate them and their jockey (see main photo).

Gemma is not in regular contact with any classmates from Hymers but has found that her path has crossed with many Hymers pupils in many places when she least expects it, such as at a British Horse Society Healthcare Clinic where one of the vets was Antonia O’Donnell who was in her class the whole way through Hymers.  Gemma also remembers getting a detention for being late to a lesson due to disappearing off to watch the South African rugby team play.

Her favourite teacher was Mr Wooldridge:

He was such a character and I can always remember when he shaved his beard off for charity - there was a big crowd watching in the main hall!

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