Equestrian athletes and Riders Minds unite to support Baton of Hope
British equestrian athletes and representatives from The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment took part in the final leg of the Baton of Hope tour of the United Kingdom in London. Olympic Team eventing gold medallist Oliver Townend, event rider and mental health advocate Mollie Summerland, dressage rider Lewis Carrier and Richard Waygood, British Equestrian Technical Advisor and Eventing Performance Manager, carried the distinctive baton on horseback from Wellington Arch, down Constitution Hill, along The Mall and on to Horse Guards Parade. The baton was then passed as part of the tribute to the Emergency and Military Services.
The riders were lent their mounts, Quizzical, Oliver, Victoria and Pagan, courtesy of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and all the horses had recently returned from their performances at CHIO Aachen in Germany, where they were part of the British-themed entertainment.
Baton of Hope is designed to be the biggest suicide awareness and prevention initiative the UK has ever seen. The messaging hopes to reduce the stigma, encourage necessary, open conversations and help people get better at asking questions.
At the centre of the campaign is a unique baton designed by Thomas Lyte, goldsmiths and silversmiths to the late Queen Elizabeth II, that has toured UK towns and cities as a unifying symbol, starting in Glasgow on 25 June and culminating in London today, Thursday 6 July. The baton and the messaging it represents will be delivered to the Houses of Parliament this evening.
As the equestrian industry’s leading mental wellbeing charity, Riders Minds is a partner to the Baton of Hope, and its founder and trustee Victoria Wright has coordinated the Birmingham and London legs of the tour, as well as being instrumental in the ridden element of the London route.
“When the opportunity came around to work with the Baton of Hope, thanks to our mental health professional Sylvia Bruce, it was an initiative we knew we had to get involved with,” Victoria said.
“The Baton of Hope is designed to be the biggest suicide awareness and prevention initiative the UK has ever seen, opening up necessary conversations and prompting appropriate actions. The mission of the baton is to bring about change in how we approach the subject of suicide, how we talk about it and how we support those affected by it.
“Martin Schleicher and I are proud to be project leads of the Birmingham and London legs, and it is an honour to have a mounted section of the tour, in which the baton was carried on horseback from Hyde Park into Horse Guards Parade thanks to help of Richard Waygood.
“This is an important moment for the equestrian industry and we’re proud that Riders Minds and British Equestrian are able to work together to deliver a very important message,” she concluded.
Oliver Townend, who proudly rode with his Olympic team gold medal from Tokyo around his neck, said; “It’s such a huge privilege to be a part of this important occasion and let’s hope that we’ve raised awareness by giving our support to the Baton of Hope. It was an amazing experience to be able to ride a horse through central London!”
Mollie Summerland, who has shared her own mental health journey openly on social media to help others, said; “It’s really important that we’re here today, and to be able to talk about a topic that needs to be raised, have more awareness of and be spoken about more. To be able to ride through the streets of London and play a small part in helping suicide prevention – I hope it shows that even in the darkest times, there is hope and they are not alone.”
Corporal of the Horse Richard Raffel from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment added; “To be part of today is quite an honour. It was a little last-minute for us being tasked with this, but we put forward a team of horses who have only recently returned from Aachen and we picked the best of the bunch for today.”
- Suicide is the biggest killer of men and women under 35 in the UK. Seventeen people die by suicide every day in the UK.
- More people die by suicide than in road traffic accidents or cancer.
- Most suicides are preventable right up until the last moment.
- The Baton of Hope is a not-for-profit organisation with the primary purpose of helping to move toward a zero-suicide society by opening up the conversation and raising awareness and encouraging appropriate action.
- The aim is to seek to change the conversation around suicide, smash the stigma, highlight existing support and leave a lasting legacy of practical improvements in the field of suicide prevention.
For more on the Baton of Hope, please visit their website.
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Photography courtesy of Jon Stroud Media