Plans for the #50for50 Golden Horseshoe Route continue apace as time ticks relentlessly on and I see with horror that I am about to turn the calendar to the month marked June with just 2 weeks to go before the start of my walk.
Each group is organising the celebrations at the start of their leg but it falls to North Herts RDA to kick the whole thing off on 13th June. As with many RDA groups they do not own their own ponies but rely on the good will and generosity of those who loan their ponies to the group each week. Most of the North Herts ponies are actually stabled down the hill from the indoor school and are hacked up and back by some of the more svelte volunteers. Their route home after sessions takes them along the bridleway that marks the beginning of the Golden Horseshoe route so the plan is for them to accompany me as I start off. This begs the question as to how out of puff I will be as we part company – no doubt the ponies will be walking out in a very active fashion knowing that they are on the way home!
So the theme for the first event is going to be ‘RDA ponies’. Our equine therapists for riders and volunteers alike - they cast long shadows influencing people's physical and mental well being long after the session has finished.
There is nothing quite like the velvety feel of a horse’s muzzle or the sound of a content pony’s sigh, the connection a person has walking beside a pony is quite special and something which benefits both. To connect with an animal is something which is good for the soul and it has been shown that our volunteers as well as our riders benefit from their time with us. Some of that benefit is due to the physical activity of being a leader or a sidewalker, some from knowing that what you are doing is making a real difference to the rider you are helping, some because it feels good to be part of a team and make new friends but I am convinced that it is also because whether the volunteer is ‘horsey’ or not everyone benefits from interacting with a horse.
So before the start day the North Herts riders are going to colour in some pictures of their favourite RDA ponies to celebrate them. I hope that we can get a picture of them with the ponies in front of the doors of the indoor arena just like this picture taken back in the early days of RDA at Chesfield. Manor Farm Stables has been an RDA venue for all 50 years starting out as the home of Stevenage RDA who operated on a Monday, then North Herts RDA who ride there now on Thursdays so it is apt that I start the walk where RDA began in Hertfordshire. Let’s hope it doesn’t take me 50 years to get around!