by Sarah Measom
Police officers swapped their uniforms for black tie and evening gown attire as they gathered for the annual Police Sport UK (PSUK) Awards, held at the Principal Hotel in York on Wednesday 29 March. The occasion is an opportunity for all of those involved in police sport disciplines to celebrate their achievements and success throughout the year.
Winner of the PSUK Award of Excellence
Taking the spotlight in the equestrian sport section was PC Emma Smith of Suffolk Police. Emma was recognised as a winner of the PSUK Award of Excellence. Balancing work as a full-time serving officer since 2009, Emma still manages to produce all her ponies herself and achieves great success competing at national and international events in a range of disciplines including dressage, show jumping and working hunter classes.
Emma was nominated for the award after winning three PSUK Equestrian Championship titles in consecutive years through 2018, 2019 and 2020 at the Blue Lights Horse Show National Championships held annually at Solihull Riding Club. Horse illness prevented Emma from competing in 2021, however, she returned for the 2022 National Championship as determined as ever. Not only did she claim a further PSUK Championship award, but she also took the title of the Overall Show Supreme Champion for the Protective Services competitors and was declared the winner of The Queen Elizabeth II Cup – “Services Riders of Great Britain”.
The dedicated police constable is an active equestrian representative within her force sports club and supports her colleagues with attendance at PSUK equestrian events whenever she can. Sergeant Lesley Fisher of West Mercia Police, who is PSUK’s national equestrian section secretary, says: “Emma’s success is a great reflection of her dedication to a sport that she loves. She not only works hard with her own string of ponies, but she also makes great effort to support others and this award is very well-deserved.”
The Police Sport UK Club of the Year
The Police Sport UK Club of the Year award at the evening ceremony went to the Scottish Police Recreation Association (SPRA) Equestrian Club. The club was started in 2005 and has steadily grown its membership over the proceeding years. It welcomes serving or retired members of Police Scotland officers or staff and their families to participate regardless of their level of ability.
Secretary of the club and recently retired Police Scotland mounted branch officer, Kirsteen Watson, worked to develop the SPRA Equestrian Club to become the success it is today. She was there to receive the award on behalf of the club and was cheered on by SPRA members from Police Scotland who turned out to join the celebrations.
Supported by SPRA the club fund riding lessons at schools across Scotland for horse owners and non-horse owners to develop their equestrian skills and to promote a healthy, active lifestyle whilst developing their riding skills and horse care knowledge. Some serving members have gone on to serve the Police Scotland Mounted Branch.
Last year the club was also awarded Scottish Club of the Year 2022 by Horse Scotland at the National Equestrian Awards ceremony for their endeavours and enthusiasm to encourage participation in the sport. It also recognised their commitment to promote the health benefits and therapeutic nature of being around horses.
About The Blue Lights Horse Show
The Blue Lights Horse Show has been run by West Mercia Police Sergeant Lesley Fisher since 2016. As a competitive horse rider herself, Lesley recognised that equestrianism was not encompassed in the Police Sport UK disciplines and as part of her commitment to the sport she set out to make a change. In 2017, Lesley was successful in making representation to PSUK, outlining to the committee the horse riders and competitors within police forces across the UK who would participate in PSUK equestrian events should it become an officially recognised police sport.
PSUK Equestrian Championships have since taken place annually with regional and national championships taking place across the UK each year. The show’s popularity has grown year-on-year and sees police officers from numerous forces across England, Wales and Scotland compete in ridden and in-hand showing classes, dressage, show jumping, combined training and arena eventing. The shows also run an open section which gives eligibility for those not in the emergency services to compete alongside the UK Blue Lights and Protective Services riders.
Lesley takes great pride in making sure equestrianism is recognised and supported within forces and PSUK by ensuring that through grants and external sponsorships it remains viable. The Blue Lights Horse Show also raises funds for the PC Nicola Hughes Memorial Fund, which was set up by Nicola’s father Bryn Hughes following her death in 2012. The charity supports children who have lost a close family member due to a violent crime, such as murder or manslaughter, by helping provide learning opportunities or work skills. Lesley said: “Bryn actively supports our events and will always attend the Blue Lights Horse Shows when he is able to. We donate annually to the charity and every competitor riding at our shows helps us to support this further.”