And so it begins...
1st leg North Herts RDA Thursday 13th June 2019
Finally the day had arrived, it was time to start off on the Golden Horseshoe Route around Hertfordshire. Unfortunately nobody had told the weather gods.
It had been raining for days, it was still raining and it continued to rain - more the weather for ducks than horses and ponies. The big question for me was wellies, walking boots or heaven forbid a rowboat?
Still RDA volunteers are hardy sorts and before long the helpers at North Herts RDA were gathering and preparing for their lessons in the indoor arena at Chesfield Manor Stables, I was busy putting up banners and greeting those who had come along to see me off on my journey.
Following an article in the Stevenage Comet I had been contacted by one of the Hertfordshire Police Hate Crime Officers who was keen as part of the force's community policing effort to support RDA's work to empower those with a disability in the county . Three local PCSOs turned up to find out what we do, eager to meet the riders and ponies and if truth be told very keen to test the celebration cake on offer! I can look forward to having the long arm of the law on hand at each of the series of walks as local PCSOs will attend all of them which might come in handy at one or two venues where the walk starts on the road and the sight of a police car should slow the traffic down!
There was no slowing down the North Herts RDA volunteers as they walked with the horses and riders, circling around the cones and transferring bean bags in typical RDA fashion. The therapeutic benefit from the pony to rider is most obvious at an active walk and the ponies were really striding out. Volunteers too get a physical workout if they are leading or side helping in a session, it's one of the benefits that volunteers often notice.
Before the finish of the session there was just time to take a picture of the group infront of the doors of the indoor arena, recreating an old photo from the early days of RDA at the venue although the rain forced us to pose inside rather than outside.
After presenting the North Herts RDA Chair with a golden horseshoe to commemorate the 50th anniversary it was time to head off. The horses and ponies at North Herts RDA are all very kindly lent by private owners and travel in each Thursday. What would we do without people volunteering their time, effort and beloved horses? Four hack up and back each week from a nearby yard along the beginning of the Golden Horseshoe Route so off we went together down the lane and onto the bridleway.
A little way along the ponies turned off towards home and I and my walking companion carried on towards the edge of Stevenage into Forster Country, rounded the Lister Hospital and picked up a hot drink at Sainsbury's to dispel the drizzle. Many a new volunteer has read about RDA and come to volunteering through the posters RDA groups put up at supermarkets. Just earlier I had met one such lady - one of the 50 for 50 who had seen a poster asking for volunteers and was leaving Chesfield clutching information and a copy of the RDA Magazine. Although social media is great for reaching out to people we don't forget about the older methods of contacting potential helpers and donors like postering, talks to the WI and articles in parish newsletters!
Before long I was on the home stretch to Courtlands Riding Stables the venue for Stevenage RDA as this was the shortest of the series of walks I will be undertaking - a nice little warm up of just under 3 miles. I have to admit that having arrived I was a little bit on a roll and could quite easily have been persuaded to set off straight away for Digswell Place RDA - but that's next week and another story.