Twenty two RDA resolutions for the start of 2022


Photo shows a rider on a skewbald cob trotting past C at the top end of a large indoor school on a sunny day

It's 2022: hopefully an exciting, fulfilling, healthy year for RDA and all who sail in her. Are you still struggling to put a finger on a New Year's resolution or two to get you focused and motivated for the year ahead? I've got you covered...

For RDA participants

1. Ask to try something new. Are there other disciplines available at your RDA group or nearby? Would you like to ride a different horse? Is there something you've held off trying before but can say "yes" to in 2022?

2. Speak up about your goals: let your coach know what you want to achieve, even if you feel a bit shy about sharing. They are well placed to help you work out how to get closer to your dreams, and love knowing what motivates you.

3. Take the reins when you're out of the saddle and take as much responsibility for your strength and fitness outside of your RDA sessions. Have you given your physio exercises enough love? Can you be more active on your non-RDA days? Are there any stretches you can do at home to keep yourself supple for riding?

4. Keep a riding/RDA diary and record your sessions and how they went. You can look back over it at the end of next year to help you with your 2023 resolutions!

5. Make your comfort zone a bit bigger while you're at the stables. Could you, with the support of others at your group, expand the number of horses you enjoy riding, or encourage yourself to chat to your peers or the volunteers you see each week? It doesn't have to be immediate, and you can take as much time as you need!

6. Work out the best way for you to compete. Lots of RDA participants aim their resolutions at the National Championships, but it might suit you better to aim for a specific percentage in a virtual competition; completion of a dressage test a level up from your last one; participation in a competition at your group. Great competitors recognise that their biggest competition is their past selves.

7. Acknowledge what you're good at. It's easy to pick at ourselves when we're choosing New Year's resolutions, but it's great for our minds and future progress to stop and recognise what's great about us and our skills. You can aim for all the improvements you want, but don't forget that you can do that while also being patient, strong, technical, confident, balanced, gentle, or determined.

For volunteers

8. Do a bit of homework: can you read up on elements of your RDA experience in the time you aren't at the stables? RDA's E-Learning portal is a great place to start, but you could also look into researching the disabilities represented at your group and how riding works for them; learning a supplementary skill like first aid; or developing your horse care skills and knowledge, at your group or at another stables. Training isn't just for coaches!

9. Try volunteering for something at your group which isn't the norm: come on a different day (sometimes other classes at my large group need extra cover because of holidays or illness, but "just because" is often welcomed too!); help out with yard work when you would usually be in lessons; offer your assistance for a fundraising event. It all helps, and it might enhance your experience too.

10. Attend an external competition, whether with your group or not. Anyone can come to RDA Nationals for free, and fingers crossed we will have the full in-person experience to look forward to this year...

11. Ask more questions. Do you wonder why one of your group's horses might behave in a particular way? Why do we use different types of tack for rider X and rider Y? Why do we change the rein regularly during riding lessons? RDA is a constant learning curve, and as a coach I know I am happy to help develop my helpers' knowledge.

12. Be as active as you can in your volunteer role: how can you help the rider you are leading understand and respond to their coach's instructions? How can you help the coach develop the rider's skills? What are everyone's goals? You don't have to be coaching an RDA session to play a meaningful part in the progress that's made.

13. Challenge yourself in a way that benefits your RDA group. The most obvious way to do this is some sort of fundraising challenge: sponsored runs and walks can be a great way to push yourself for charity (one of our coaches even did a triathlon last year!), or perhaps you have ideas and skills for events or things to sell. It doesn't necessarily have to be financially based, either: do you have practical skills (or could you develop some new ones) which could contribute to the maintenance of your group's facilities or care of their horses? Digital skills to help promote your group to others? Could you learn how to make some fun pieces of equipment to use in sessions? Learning and achieving new things is great for us all - even better if we can have a positive impact with the skills we gain.

14. This one is for absolutely anyone really - clean your boots more regularly and carefully. I'm very proud to say that I managed to keep this one in 2021. My riders don't even call me out on the state of my footwear any more...

For coaches

15. Visit another RDA group, whether for a training day, open day, or because you messaged someone on Facebook to ask nicely. It can be really refreshing and inspiring to get out of your own group's bubble and encounter new ideas and ways of doing under the RDA umbrella.

16. Keep better, more detailed records: this was a resolution for me in January 2020 which I'm so glad I've kept (despite the lockdown gaps!). What did you cover in each session? What worked and what didn't? What do you want to try next week? It doesn't have to be an essay every week, but whatever you are able to record will help you in the present and future.

17. Seek out new experiences, whether for you or the people you coach. Could they ride different horses for a week? Could you find some new lesson ideas, whether from a direct peer or from your visit to another centre? Could you aim to enter a virtual competition, conduct a stable management lesson (perhaps when circumstances mean riding is off the cards), work on a project (arts & crafts, fundraising?) together?

18. Work on your RDA-rest of life balance. Coaching and its associated responsibilities can take up a lot of time and headspace, and you'll be a better coach for having a healthy split between RDA and all the other parts of your life (even if it means saying no to things occasionally!).

19. Understand those around you better: aim to learn something new about every rider, volunteer and horse you come into contact with at RDA before the end of the year, even if you already know them well.

20. Appreciate our wonderful RDA horses more. This can just be a reminder to stay grateful (they are essential to what we do, after all), but those who prefer more concrete resolutions might like to translate it into learning and participating more in the care and management of our excellent equines.

21. Reap what you want to sow in the RDA community. If you would like our world to be more open-minded, encouraging, technically-minded, interested in sharing, medically and physiotherapeutically aware, don't keep that wish to yourself! Share your own thoughts and experiences, and talk about or ask for the things which you can't cover with either of these. Our community is always getting better at this, but that's not to say there's no room for improvement.

For anyone reading this who's been considering it, or feeling curious, or in need of something new to do...

22. Find yourself a local RDA group and start - or at least register your interest in - volunteering! There are currently 489 groups in the UK (find the one(s) nearest you here), and many are actively seeking new additions to their volunteer team for the start of 2022. If you've got the opportunity to make this your New Year's resolution, I'm excited for you!

Photo shows two horses in the distance walking towards the camera. They are in a field as the sun is setting on the right hand side of the picture.