We are thrilled to present the wonderful Finalists for this year’s Animal Partnership Award.

The special Award honours the unique relationships and companionship provided by animals, and/or the achievements of individuals or organisations engaged with animals that support or empower members of the Armed Forces community.

The Winner of this category will be selected by public vote – so your say counts. The public vote has now ended, but you can find out more about each Finalists below by reading their story, and watching their videos.

This Award is generously sponsored by Pets at Home, the UK’s largest pet supplies retailer with more than 450 stores and 6,000 employees. The company sells products including food, toys, bedding, medication, accessories and pets.

“At Pets at Home, we understand what a positive impact pet ownership can have on people’s lives and wellbeing. We’re extremely proud to sponsor the Animal Partnership Category in celebration of these exceptional pets, who provide invaluable support to their owners and the wider veteran community.”

And the Finalists are:

Barry Coase and Bella

Barry Coase and Bella Soldiering On Awards

Barry Coase is an extraordinary person; generously dedicating his time to supporting Veterans, and passionate about raising awareness of trauma-related mental health problems within the military community.  As a Veteran who has his own personal struggles, he is incredibly selfless and kind in ensuring others receive the support they need, with the help of Bella, his gifted Bichon Frise.

After adopting Bella, a rescue dog, Barry soon realised that she was incredibly perceptive and emotionally intelligent. Bella seemed to know when Barry was stressed, offering comfort, waking him from nightmares and calming him down. Bella became a grounding tool for Barry when he suffered from anxiety attacks.

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Barry and his wife Petra decided to make the most of Bella’s natural intuition and train her as a Therapy Dog in order to provide other Veterans with similar support.

“Barry’s unwavering dedication to raising awareness of Veteran mental health issues, and a simple cuddle with a fluffy canine friend, can truly work miracles and save lives.

Now Barry devotes his spare time working with Bella to support Veterans. They regularly visit Combat Stress’ treatment centre in Surrey, and visit a Veterans’ drop-in centre and Veterans’ breakfast once a month.

Barry and Bella provide an important therapeutic service, giving Veterans the opportunity to relax and open up about their struggles whilst stroking Bella. Bella is able to put Veterans at ease whilst Barry is able to encourage them to talk about their issues, building rapport from shared experiences.  The importance of their work cannot be overstated. Mental health problems are often met with stigma, so Barry is providing much-needed inspiration to Veterans with PTSD, proving they are not alone, there is a way forward after their time in the forces – and that it’s okay to not be okay.

“Raising awareness of trauma related mental health problems not only breaks down harmful stigma but also saves lives. With Bella by his side, Barry seeks to give a voice to those suffering, offering Bella’s unique brand of care and reassurance.”




Battling On Animals and Staff

Battling On Animals and Staff Soldiering On Awards

Battling On is a Community Interest Company that offers wraparound care and support to Veterans in need, and then trains Veterans to become instructors, mentors, tutors and community facilitators to support the most vulnerable within our communities.

This work takes place through a range of innovative projects offered at their Care Farm, using a wide range of rare breeds and pets for animal-based intervention and therapy. This includes reindeer, alpacas, Swiss Valais sheep, Poitou donkeys, wallabies, seven rescue dogs trained as therapy dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs.

The animals bring joy and comfort to those in need.

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The impact of the partnership between the animals and Veterans cannot be overestimated. Hundreds of vulnerable people have been supported through projects such as the following.

  • Developing Confidence Through Animals, aimed at young people who have experienced trauma or hardships.
  • Animal Intervention, targeting people with learning difficulties and disabilities to develop communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Dementia Adventure, using the animals to promote calmness and mental stimulation.
  • Animals Care, helping adults with severe mental health issues.
  • Pets Rule, connecting primary school children living in deprivation with animals.

One of the most remarkable things about this project is the sheer joy the animals bring, not only to those participating on the different projects, but to the Veterans, volunteers, Battling On staff and the wider community.

“Each animal offers beneficiaries a different experience and I have heard on many occasions “the animals just know when I’m sad” and “animals don’t judge me.”

Battling On has won multiple awards for its innovative approach to supporting vulnerable individuals; however, these results pale into insignificance compared to the results achieved with the beneficiaries. For example, a young man with autism developed the confidence to talk to the Veterans; the first time he has ever spoken to anyone but his father.  And a Veteran who had planned to end her life became so convinced of the positive impact animals have on mental health she decided to undertake a Foundation Degree in Zoology so that she could specialise in this area.

“This demonstrates the incredible power these animals have to help heal emotional wounds and offer comfort.”




Chris Lewis and Jet

Chris Lewis and Jet  Soldiering On AwardsAfter leaving the Parachute Regiment, Chris Lewis spent ten years raising his daughter as a single parent. Life was not easy and, at crisis point, Chris faced debt, homelessness and the fear of his family being separated. He became very secluded but received invaluable support from ABF The Soldiers Charity, The Airborne Forces Security Fund and SSAFA’s “Last Resort” Fund.

When his daughter went off to college Chris vowed to give something back. Aiming to raise £100,000 for SSAFA, he set off from Swansea in August 2017 to walk right around the United Kingdom. The following January he met Jet, a poorly looked after working dog, and the two have been inseparable ever since.

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Chris and Jet forged an empathic bond and, as walking partners, they have covered many thousands of miles together, showing fantastic teamwork. They have turned from being isolated and inward looking to always looking forward, and their story offers hope to others who face struggles and withdraw from life.  Chris says, “I was a little bit broken and she was too.

“They face challenges together: “the hard parts are the most beautiful.” In the summer heat of August 2018 Chris had to carry Jet across the Isle of Skye.

Together for nearly two years, the pair have so far raised £79,000 for SSAFA. They have earned the respect of peers worldwide, with almost 30,000 followers on Facebook. Their social media posts show the incredible beauty of the UK’s landscape, our precious wildlife and its amazing people. They have also raised awareness of the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces, in both war and peacetime, by showing the many memorials along our coastline. A 2019 calendar of their walk photos added to their fundraising.

But over and above this fundraising, their walk has illustrated far more about the Armed Forces family; the kindness and support from others has been outstanding. Chris and Jet have reciprocated by visiting schools and Veterans’ breakfast clubs to talk about their journey. They are both becoming inspirational teachers.

“Chris and Jet are the embodiment of Soldiering On. Their achievement in walking the coastline together for almost two years shows commitment, tenacity, courage, and physical and mental skill.”




Stable Lives

Stable Lives Soldiering On AwardsStable Lives is set in the beautiful surroundings of Parbold Equestrian Centre in Lancashire. The charity was born out of the personal experience of its founder, Carrie Byrom, who decided to help those living with PTSD and other mental trauma, particularly from the military or blue light professionals and their families.

Through supporting a military family in crisis, the team put together respite days and equine-assisted personal development courses that could support other families, either in similar situations or – ideally – as an early intervention.

The rural location provides a calm, safe place where people can go to mentally rest, relax and reconnect with society and family life. This is done by using horses and land-based activities to improve confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.

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As well as people needing help, the charity saves and rehabilitates numerous horses in distress. Encouraging Veterans to help in this process is proving to be incredibly rewarding for all involved. The effects of linking people suffering from mental health issues with horses who have been mentally and physically neglected is incredibly emotive, and course participants develop meaningful relationships with their allocated horse and course companions. This provides the groundwork for people to start to rebuild their lives on a firm footing of trust, relationship-building and calm, considered friendship.

The ultimate aim is to develop hope and optimism for the future and, as each participant finishes the course with an industry recognised qualification, they are often inspired to further their education and begin to make future plans.

“Two young boys from the same family reported to have had the best days of their lives as they attended two respite days through the school holidays…  They returned to their family with improved self-esteem and happy memories.”

During 2018, Stable Lives’ child respite days and resilience courses helped over 300 children, and more than 50 families benefitted from family days, courses and support.

The team’s first published book captures the journey of one of their ponies from the day he was rescued to the incredible and proud horse he has become today. All proceeds from this will go directly to support and host more courses for families in crisis.

“The development of empathy, compassion and understanding between human and horse is both moving and powerful.”



Find out more about the amazing 2020 #SoldieringOnAwards finalist here


Remember to tag us in any social media posts that you share about any of the amazing 2020 Finalists. We’ll happily retweet and share – giving you and your organisation, if relevant, extra exposure.

What’s next?

Please click here for an update on how we’ll be celebrating this year’s winners in light of the restrictions imposed due to Covid-19.

To find out about the Soldiering On Awards Independent Judging Panel who selected this year’s People’s Choice Award Finalists, click here.


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