Five things I'm not bringing back to RDA after Lockdown 3


Photos in this post are from autumn 2020

The clocks have changed, I'm back at RDA (again!) and back in the cycle of gradually phasing in sessions and riders... It's as good a time as we've had in a while to look ahead. This post idea popped into my head as I was packing my yard bag for the first time this year. Some things are definite cannot-live-withouts: my keys and alarm fob for the stables; my gloves; a handful of elastic bands (when you know, you know). What about the things that might be better off left behind? Here are the five things I decided I wouldn't be bringing back to RDA...


I've been feeling a sort of disengagement from RDA (and, in fairness, a few other things I usually enjoy) over the past few months which I've never experienced before, and I don't think I'm alone. It's why I took a few weeks off from writing this blog. I've always known I thrive on being busy and involved, but with limited opportunities for either it seemed like feeling glum was the new default; like many of my RDA peers, I don't have horses of my own to keep me busy and out in the fresh air during Covid-related hiatuses. Whether or not I was unusual in these feelings (I wasn't) or could've handled it better (I could've), I think I've already left this one behind. Getting a date to go back to the stables, even just to teach a couple of my riders, was a great way to start shaking off the lockdown blues, and planning for what will hopefully turn into an RDA year remembered for at least some of the right reasons. I wish the same to anyone reading this.

Next lockdown worries

I am neither a committed optimist nor pessimist: I am a considerer, and think there is a lot to consider before declaring this lockdown our third-time-lucky. Basically, it's good to be hopeful (I think we all need to be), but there's no stone tablet decreeing that this is the last time we'll start to trickle back to RDA after a lockdown situation. We've got a long way to go before we're back where we were in February 2020. I am, however, for the first time planning to stop myself from constantly looking over my shoulder for the next impending closure. The few people I was actually around at the stables last summer during our phased reopening can confirm that I was a bit of a coiled spring, even if I was thrilled to be back and never happier than when coaching. 

For my group, most of our coaches now have experiences of three cycles of closing and opening back up, navigating through rules which seemed weird but are now pretty familiar. Even for groups who haven't been able to reopen since last March, there is still the boost of being able to draw upon collective experience which we just didn't have in the beginning. We can all look back and learn from our actions and reactions over the past year without constantly tiptoeing around waiting for the next lockdown, and I certainly think my sessions will be better for it.

Non-delegated plans

I forgot to put something I really did forget how to do in my blog post about things I didn't want to forget before coming back to RDA: I had to reteach myself to delegate to my helpers. We started off with the absolute minimum number of people on the yard when we first started running sessions again in the summer. It was adequate to make things safe (of course), and because I was dealing with a single horse and rider at a time it was actually quite nice to be able to do a lot of it myself. The little, mundane things like picking out feet and making a saddlepad sit neatly that you take for granted when you deal with horses every day? I hadn't seen a horse in weeks and I actually missed that stuff. As we upped volunteer numbers slightly (we will still be keeping numbers streamlined for the time being) I realised that I had completely forgotten how many little jobs need to be delegated during an RDA day with group lessons and more than one or two riders in each one. Also, my helpers were happy to have a share of this stuff to do, having had their own reasons for missing RDA. I'll have my act together a bit more this time.

Can't do attitudes

For the benefit of anyone from outside the RDA community who might have stumbled across this post (hello!), the organisation's slogan is "it's what you can do that counts". There has certainly been a cruel irony inherent in how for the last year, everything to do with operating an RDA group has had to centre on the things that we can't do. I know that discussing the hows and whens of individual riders returning to their sessions has felt really heartless compared to the regular compassion we pride ourselves on, and there are still many participants out there who haven't yet been able to return at all. I'm not saying it's time to throw that out and get on with absolutely everything we can hypothetically do, because we really can't. I think I'm comfortable enough with how things have to work now, and how my own boundaries work with it, that I can shift my mindset back in the other direction without compromising safety. I'll let you know how it sticks...

Sadness/regret for the things that couldn't happen

I don't think it's a bad thing for anyone to feel sad about the things, experiences, even the time itself which has been lost to the past year. We've all missed out on a lot, including things which won't necessarily come around for a do-over. I've thought a lot about all the RDA fun and achievement which just couldn't happen, (no Nationals two years a row: definitely sad) but I've decided I don't want to bring it back to the stables this time. My feelings, just like everyone else's, are totally valid, but I don't think it's going to be good for anyone for me to be looking at my riders thinking "I wonder how much further along we'd be if we hadn't been closed" or "I planned to have this all worked out by now". The here and now is extra important at this point if we're keen to progress, even if it isn't in the same ways as we hoped for 2020. I'm definitely ready for the progress.

What are you letting Lockdown 3 keep?


  1. I love your blogs India, they reassure me that the feelings I have are shared by other coaches. My big regret is that we were not able to bring back one of our regular riders after lockdown, and sadly he died before we were able to get him back in the saddle. We all wrote to him in hospital and sent him photographs of himself riding. I just hope he had some happy memories of his time with us.

    1. Thank you so much for this comment! I am really sorry to hear about the loss of your rider. I know how difficult it can feel to be limited in how you're able to help, but I'm sure he felt your love and support right until the end and took great comfort in being part of your RDA group - that's the stuff that matters.


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