As most residents across the Melton borough unwrapped gifts before tucking into traditional roast turkey lunches, Christmas Day was just a normal working shift for the men and women who serve with the Defence Animal Training Regiment (DATR) at their Melton base.
A 40-strong team of military and civilian staff reported for work as usual, to feed, groom and exercise the animals, just as they do every day throughout the year at the Asfordby Road HQ.
Corporal of Horse Andy Mancey is one such soldier.
He is the Junior Instructor in the Equine Training Squadron and it’s his job to teach the junior soldiers how to ride.
Andy is one of 52 riding instructors in the British Army, who serve the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, the Household Division and the DATR.
He said: “The horses need looking after daily, so Christmas is just another day.
“It’s important that the horses maintain their fitness.
“Everything still needs to happen, it’s just a little bit more relaxed.”
On Christmas morning - just like any other day - the horses were fed and exercised.
Andy explained: “We start about half-seven.
“We feed them first, which takes about half-an-hour, and then whilst one half of the team exercise the horses the other half will clean out their stables.”
All that took until lunchtime when Andy and the rest of the team headed home to enjoy their Christmas dinners.
However, there was no festive glass of wine with the turkey for Andy.
Married to Jenny with a two-year-old daughter, Matilda, he returned to the base later in the afternoon to give the horses their final feed and put them to bed.
Andy said: “I tend to volunteer to work Christmas Day.
“You still get a few hours of the day and it means I get New Year off, so all the hustle and bustle of the New Year is over by the time I come back and I just slip back into my daily routine.”
Civilian groom Katie Miller was also working on Christmas Day.
Katie (30), who looks after three military horses, has worked at the DATR for the past 10 years.
She said: “It doesn’t bother me working Christmas Day, we are only here for a few hours in the morning.
“We just pitch in and get the work done; everyone works together. It’s like a little family.”
Working over in the Canine Training Squadron was Chief Dog Trainer WO1 Paul Jobling and his team.
Just like the Equine Training Squadron, the team were in early morning to feed and exercise the military working dogs and clean out their kennels.
Among those on duty was Lance Corporal Joe Murden (27).
This was Joe’s first Christmas working at the DATR having transferred across from the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment in August.
“I worked as an Arms Explosive Search Dog handler in the Regiment,” he said. “Now I’m here to learn how to actually train the dogs.”
He continued: “I don’t mind working over Christmas.
“It lets those with children be at home.”
Just like his friend and colleague Corporal Bobby Denslow.
Married to Sarah with a daughter Eloise (2), Corporal Denslow said: “We are all asked what we prefer to work, and we take it in turns to work over the holiday period.”
The Veterinary Training Squadron also had staff working to treat those military animals who needed their medication as normal on Christmas Day.
The DATR is a joint-service establishment with serving personnel from several Army regiments and the RAF Police. It has been based in Melton since 1905 and now boasts 236 staff, made up of Army (112), RAF (23), and civil servants (101), and comprises three training squadrons - canine, equine and veterinary, as well as an HQ and support squadron.
Maj Drew Tootal, the Second in Command of the DATR, said: “Animals require care all-year-round care and we have a great team of military and civilian staff who accept working over holiday periods as part of their work.
“Together they ensure that the welfare of the animals is always the top priority even on Christmas Day.”
He added: “We’d like to thank our local community for their continued support and wish everyone a Happy New Year.”