As a back of the envelope plan, it wasn’t a bad one, just a bit sparse on details. Gather up some equine vets who also ride motorcycles, and ride to all the UK vet schools to give CPD talks and raise money for overseas equine charities. How complicated could it be?
The seed of the idea came to Professor Derek Knottenbelt after he won a Harley Davidson motorcycle in a raffle. Most people who won a motorcycle in their 60s would just sell it, but Derek being Derek, along with some prompting by a grandson, decided to learn to ride. Derek’s philanthropic side then took over and he decided to find a way to use his new hobby to raise money for charities. So he got on the grapevine and recruited the first few bikers: Josh Slater, John Burford, Jessica Kidd, Caroline Hahn, and they recruited others; in 2010 the first Horsepower CPD set off from Liverpool and rode 1500 miles in one week, visiting all the vet schools (except Dublin, in Eire, who weren’t happy to be left out, so they were first on the list for 2011). The trips definitely have an endurance element: riding long miles and then usually going right into the venue to begin the talks. So the entire trip is either riding, speaking, listening to other speakers, or sleeping but the challenge is one of the draws for all concerned.
The 2010 trip raised money for SPANA and the BEVA Trust. There have been tours every year since! Subsequent recipients include; The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, World Horse Welfare, and The Smile Train. To date Vets with Horsepower (as it is now called) have raised over £500,000 for these charities. The money is raised through corporate sponsorship, on line personal donations and donations by vets who come to listen to the talks along the tour route. .
The 2016 tour was at the request of the South Africa Equine Veterinary Association and supported several South African charities: St Ethelberts (a refuge for abused and abandoned children), The Bizana Project, and Hole in the Wall. That tour had ten riders and one support vehicle and covered about 1800 miles, some of which are unpaved roads. This is how Derek broke his ankle! Sixty eight presentations were be given to both vets and non-vets along the way as well as days spent on outreach projects. For those family members who think we the riders were off on a holiday, they were sorely mistaken.
The 2017 tour is on the continent and takes in Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. Our charities this year are The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, Ethelberts, and for the first time HEROS which is a UK based charity which retrains and rehomes ex-racehorses.
Over the years we have had more riders join us. This year’s team is Derek Knottenbelt, Josh Slater, Roger Smith, Caroline Hahn, John Burford, David Bardell, Jessica Kidd, Jenny Croft, Trevor Croft, Sanne Wilminck, Deon van Tonder, Edmund Hainisch and Dietrich von Schweinitz with Ed Whittle returning as the support car driver. We will all miss those riders who couldn’t join us this year.
From a simple plan, the Horsepower concept has certainly grown. It is now a registered charity and the trips have become longer, more involved and more arduous. The task of arranging one tour is gargantuan and takes at least a year, with many people working behind the scenes in the UK and in the local area s with hundreds of hours spent on the task. But it all pales into insignificance when the final financial tally for each year comes in, and the feeling of giving £50,000 to a charity is hard to equal.
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