Uncertain times

Whether or not we like it, could have predicted it, or were ready for it: we most certainly live in uncertain times.

I am of course talking about the developments of COVID-19 in the UK, particularly over the last week or so. Today (17th March), RDA National Office has advised all groups to close until further notice, and announced the cancellation of this year's regional and national championships. Although schools are still open at time of writing, we are experiencing a change in daily routines and things otherwise taken for granted that I know I have never experienced before in my twenty six years.

It's hard to find many positives about this situation when it takes away so many things that make our worlds brighter and more connected, things that we look forward to. Most, if not all, of the people I know have people in their lives who are considered "high risk" for the effects of COVID-19, and for whom they are worried. For many of us, this will include RDA volunteers and participants. My group closed for the foreseeable future today, but I personally have been keeping my distance since Saturday (in "RDA exile") due to confirmed cases within the university where I work. Although the likelihood of me having contracted the virus from contact with any of these people is incredibly low (I agonised over an email to my parents and carers to make sure I wasn't stirring up unnecessary worry), things felt a bit too close to home to be able to continue coaching with a clear conscience. As it happens, I was only just in front of the wave of closures.

I am already alarmed by the lack of purpose I feel. This should be the busiest time of year for my day job as a university Outreach Officer (schools liaison, access etc), but my calendar has been wiped clean to avoid non-essential travel and it is far too early to tell when it will be realistic to reschedule anything. Subtract RDA from the equation and I feel like some of the best, kindest, most purposeful parts of my personality are lying dormant, and being slowly nibbled at by anxiety about the state of the world for good measure.

Dramatic? Perhaps. But I know that many people are feeling the same as me. I feel objectively that the closures and cancellations are the right thing to do, even if my heart sank at the prospect of the best weekend of the year (Nationals!) not happening, and even if I have no way of knowing when we will start bouncing back and I'm able to start coaching again. I'm heartened by the acceptance of RDA National Office's decisions today across the RDA community, and I am equally grateful for their diligence in looking after all of our group families.

I'm sure I am in similarly good company in wondering how my group will be affected from an operational point of view: what about cash flow? What if our yard staff get ill? Then it's hard to stop guilt seeping in when you realise how behind X rider will be in their physio for missing a chunk of riding sessions, or remember how much time with the horses means to Y and their all-round well being. I've already had one empty Saturday: yes, it was nice not to get out of bed at 6am, but ultimately I found myself still awake at midnight (not worn out by coaching and general pony wrangling) thinking this is so dull and so depressing. This was never part of the plan for 2020.

The reason I wrote this short post was to say that I intend to keep writing during this enforced "no RDA" period. If the time has ever been right for writing, it is now, so I will still be publishing a new post every Sunday. I don't plan to blog exclusively on a "closure and corona" theme, although I do want to share things like my own ideas for passing the time and keeping participants and supporters engaged in groups when they firm up in my head. I'm also not promising that my social distancing strategy will lead to any sort of literary masterpiece, but I would love to hear from others within the RDA community about what's important to them; what they are looking forward to returning to; and what they might like to read about from my decidedly non-expert but emphatically curious and enthusiastic words.

Wishing you all well: safety, peace, resilience. I am always happy to lend a virtual ear to anyone finding this strange new era difficult, especially from within the RDA community. Look after each other. Wash your hands. Remember when you are next stuck in the mud turning out RDA ponies; side walking for miles; coaxing the best out of a tricky rider; waking up at crack of dawn to get to your group... remember just how much you missed it all.

Better days will come,


PS I really don't have an excuse not to clean my yard boots now...


  1. We just have to do the best we can.
    Practising pirouette and extended walk. By ourselves .


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