Charlotte Thornycroft wins NEF Award and receives standing ovation

Charlie Thornycroft was announced as the winner of the Sir Colin Spedding Award at last week’s National Equine Forum (NEF), 2nd March 2023. She was presented with the Award by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. Charlie also received a standing ovation for her talk about her experiences providing vital aid to Ukraine’s equestrian sector with the British Equestrians for Ukraine Fund.

The Sir Colin Spedding Award was given to Charlie in recognition of her dedication and support for the British Equestrians for Ukraine Fund during 2022. Her citation read: ‘Initially setting up and then becoming the linchpin of the Polish supply hub, Charlie worked selflessly in challenging and extraordinarily stressful situations to ensure that aid got to where it was needed most, while managing the care and evacuation of horses from war-torn areas. she continued to coordinate the delivery of relief supplies on her return to the UK and without doubt helped maximise the impact of the fund and saved the lives of very many horses.’

Prior to being announced as winner of the Sir Colin Spedding Award, Charlie took the NEF audience on a heart-rending journey by giving the NEF Memorial Lecture; in conversation with Alec Lochore. She described some of the horrors of working in a war zone and how she was driven to take on practical tasks when no alternative solutions were available, often working through the night to meet the need. Examples included single handedly unloading 40-tonne lorries containing aid deliveries, securing the kindest possible deaths for catastrophically injured horses and providing a safe place of refuge for struggling people as well as their horses.

She helped to evacuate horses and their families from Ukraine to Poland, where they ran a temporary hub, finding them safe passage and homes across Europe, America and even Dubai. She has also been involved with U-Aid – a humanitarian charity set up by a fellow volunteer to help people unable to leave the country due to disability, age or having lost their families. All her work was facilitated via the British Equestrians for Ukraine Fund.

Charlie was given a standing ovation at the end of her talk – the first time this has ever happened in the event’s 31-year history. It was a complete surprise to her when she was announced as the Award winner, to rapturous applause from the audience.

After the event Charlie said: “I am truly humbled by the response in the auditorium and the comments I have received. It was a huge team effort and one where I was lucky to be a small cog who saw the highs and lows firsthand. A truly life changing year. Thank you all for your support of both the Ukrainian Fund and of me. There is still a great need for support given that the situation in Ukraine remains so desperate for so many.”

To make a donation to the British Equestrians for Ukraine fund click here.

Sir Colin Spedding was the founding chairman of the NEF and chaired the event for 20 years until his death in 2012. He ensured that representatives of all areas of the equine sphere were made welcome to the Forum, and that topics of general interest and concern could be discussed openly and amicably. The award was introduced in 2013, in his memory. It is presented annually to an exceptional unsung hero or heroine of the equestrian world. Any individual or organisation from any equestrian field in the UK is eligible, as long as their outstanding qualities have not been formally acknowledged elsewhere.

Imran Atcha, a founder member of St James City Farm Riding School in Gloucester, won the 2022 Award and Lynda Warth, British Horse Society County Access & Bridleways Officer for Cambridgeshire, was highly commended as an Award finalist for 2022. Claire Williams, Executive Director of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) won the Special Covid-19 Sir Colin Spedding Award in 2021. Previous winners of the standard Sir Colin Spedding Award include tireless Suffolk Punch champion Nigel Oakley (2020 joint winner); welfare-driven equestrian journalist Eleanor Jones (2020 joint winner); Gordon Wesley an all-round champion of the equestrian cause (2019); Dr Simon Curtis, FWCF a practicing farrier in Newmarket, Suffolk (2018). The full list of Award winners can be found here.

The NEF replay will be available from 8th March for three weeks, free to all those who were registered for either the face-to-face event or the live streaming, and available for £20 for those who want to watch for the first time. Click here to find out more.

Picture: Charlotte Thornycroft receiving the Sir Colin Spedding Award, presented by HRH The Princess Royal, President of the National Equine Forum

Picture courtesy of Craig Payne Photography