The History of the VHS


The beginning – For the Love of Minty.

Back in 1993, Julianne Aston’s 40 year old veteran, Minty an ID X, won many awards at the Riding Club Championships. At 40, many events refused his entry and at this point Julianne had had enough. She wanted to stop this sort of discrimination against veterans and so she started doing research into the veteran as well as the age related welfare issues that she believed should be acknowledged and addressed within the equine industry.

After months of phoning owners and writing to companies, an analysis was made, talks were started and plans were made for the creation of a Society that dealt with nothing but veteran horses and ponies aged 15 years and over.

At this point in her life Julianne was now also a single parent of a 3 year old boy. She had not only lost her fiancée in a horrific car accident, but also her beloved dog Ben and her inspiration – her adored Minty – all within the space of 9 months. She found herself with little income and worked evenings in a local health centre to get by. Her mum, Anny, was a huge support and would baby sit for her to help her maintain her small council house.

With one retired horse called Soda, Julianne now longed for a horse to ride after losing Minty. She also wanted her son to learn to ride so she found a well-managed riding school for her son to start lessons. After two visits they learned of Julianne’s loss and the owner of the riding school offered her a coloured horse. That’s when Simon came along. Julianne had never really liked coloured horses before and had always preferred greys. After much discussion with a friend, she agreed to take him, as the alternative meant that he would have gone into a sanctuary for the rest of his life and he was clearly not ready for that. Simon who was then called, Mayo, was nothing like the horses Julianne had managed before. He was rude, wilful and strong. But after months of perseverance the pair bonded and Simon and Julianne were ready to launch the VHS together in Minty’s memory.

Her son was also continuing to ride during this time and after reading a press ad Julianne found a small grey pony in Coventry looking for a home. His name was Timmy. A friend begged her to take another pony for his little girl, so Julianne agreed. But only 6 months later, the little girl became bored with horses and Julianne was told she could either give the little pony back to the owner or put him to sleep. Not surprisingly Julianne decided to keep Misty. That’s when three became four.

In 1998 Julianne started to rebuild her life. She took a degree in Aromatherapy, a diploma in counselling and an A Level in Psychology and started to work voluntarily with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferers, mainly from the Falkland’s and Gulf war conflicts. While she did this she also had her now 4 year old son to care for, two dogs, 4 horses and a part time job with a local newspaper.

But, still suffering from her own personal loss, Julianne could not decide what direction she wanted to take. She just knew that she wanted to do something positive which utilised her own life experiences – both good and bad. She wanted to make a difference but knew she needed more qualifications other than those she had just acquired, so she put herself through an intensive course in business studies.

By September 2000, the business plan was formed and in November of that year, the Veteran Horse Society was launched as a registered company with the backing of Super Solvitax and Dodson & Horrell. It was a launch that was welcomed with open arms by horse lovers around the UK and signalled the beginning of a major breakthrough in the appreciation and respect of older horses both in the UK and around the world.

In March 2001 the Society was going from strength to strength when there was a sudden devastating outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). It was a very worrying time but the Society coped and won enormous support from both Members and companies in the equine industry. This support led to the first VHS championship being held in September of that year. Fittingly called the ‘Minty Memorial Trophy’, the championship was won by Mrs Mary Candy’s ‘Bubba Bates’, a stunning black Irish Sport Horse that had been rescued by the Blue Cross and re-homed to Mary in 1998.

The Society was going from strength to strength in many areas and in a short space of time had introduced many departments, dealing with all areas of veteran care and welfare from re-homing to rehabilitation.

Julianne spoke of the Societys aims in 2000: ‘I am absolutely overwhelmed by the response to the initial launch, and would like to thank all Members for supporting the Society as well as the companies who have supported our cause. Minty was a very special horse and was my inspiration behind the society. I lost him in 1998 and just wish he could be here to see what ‘we’ have achieved. With backing from companies like Super Solvitax, Dodson & Horrell and Horseware Ireland, we really have been able to move forward very quickly. We were a very small organisation in a very large field, but now deal with 100’s of enquiries a week. It is my dream, made a reality, but it would not have happened without the support and dedication of our amazing staff and Members and I would personally like to thank them for their loyalty through some very, very tough times.’

The Society now has an extensive showing series which culminates in a Supreme Final at Bury farm equestrian Village. Dates and qualifiers for the showing series can be found on our Showing page.

There are many new regulations in place for the veteran and these are available with the Society’s handbook which members receive when they join. This in itself is a breakthrough for the older equine, as many shows now judge under this ruling.  All horses, ponies and owners/carers wishing to qualify must be Members and their horses must be registered.

Over the years, the Centre has been responsible for the rehabilitation of many horses, helping them to come back to complete health and fitness and then finding caring new homes for them. Those with special needs either psychologically or physically, remain at the Centre and enjoy a stress-free retirement in glorious surroundings, with 24/7 care. Every type of horse has been to or through the Centre, from ex-eventers and racehorses to tiny children’s ponies and some who were destined for slaughter at the meat market.


For more information, contact Julianne Aston : Click Here