It seemed like a good idea at the time...
You know how it is - you're at a meeting and somebody asks for ideas. Before the sensible part of your brain has time to take charge your mouth is opening and you are making a suggestion. Even before the words are out of your mouth your mind is thinking "Oh no! I'm going to have to do this now!"
That is exactly what happened to me last year. The question was "has anybody got any ideas of how we can celebrate 50 years of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA)?" rda.org.uk My suggestion was a virtual route that linked the different RDA groups in Hertfordshire together so that our riders, drivers and vaulters could all take part, adding the distances covered in their usual lessons to work out how far along the route they would have travelled. So far so good. Then I made the mistake of saying "I could walk it"...
That is why I spent some of my time in the dark winter months pouring over Ordnance Survey maps and calculating distances, divising a route which rather handily started at a venue which has hosted an RDA group for all 50 years and finishing at our newest Hertfordshire group.
Even better the 80 mile route almost looked like a horseshoe shape - OK it's a bit squashed and you have to look at it with your head at a funny angle but it sort of looks like a horseshoe.
The plan of splitting the route into different legs grew from my hope that we could use the route to raise awareness of RDA's work and through that gain new volunteers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of RDA, without volunteers nothing would happen. Most groups are entirely run by volunteers only the large RDA Centres in the county who own their own ponies have a paid yard manager. Volunteers do everything from walking beside the riders and ponies in therapy sessions to mucking out, acting as treasurers, baking cakes, raising funds and everything inbetween!
By having the route legs walked on different days it gave each RDA group its time in the spotlight, an opportunity to reach out to its local community to seek new helpers. Then at a get together of coaches somebody said why not try for 50 new volunteers for the 50th year? So now we had a route, we had a name - The Golden Horseshoe Route and we had a hashtag #50for50. We didn't have a website - so that's how I spent some of the rest of the winter months learning how to use a website editor and now we have a website hertsrda.org and even a blog, logos and an instagram account https://www.instagram.com/hertsrda/?hl=en .
Now all I have to do is arrange for some more PR across the county as a whole and oh yes now I do have to walk it! It seemed like such a good idea at the time...
RDA County Chair, Hertfordshire