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Riders on tour
  1. Jessica Kidd


A raffle prize led to a unique CPD event and a chance to raise money for charity. Jessica Kidd and Derek Knottenbelt report

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THE ‘Horsepower CPD’ tour was the brainchild of Derek Knottenbelt, professor of equine medicine at the University of Liverpool who, last year, won a Harley Davidson motorbike in a raffle. Rather than simply selling the bike and taking the money, he decided to take lessons and get his motorcycle licence. He then devised a unique fund-raiser for a charity dear to his heart. From there, the equine vet/biker grapevine helped recruit riders for the Horsepower CPD tour, which visited all seven veterinary schools in England and Scotland in the last week of July, delivering a five-hour CPD programme at each.

Fig 1

The team gather in Liverpool before setting off on the tour

The sentiment behind the project centred on the need to provide financial stability to the SPANA-sponsored Disabled Riding Centre in Bamako, Mali, which provides a loving, respectful and stimulating respite from the rigours of orphanage life for abandoned disabled children. The BEVA Trust, which supports a wide range of important equine health and welfare projects in the UK and overseas, was also set to benefit.

The final biker team comprised Derek Knottenbelt, David Bolt, Josh Slater, Caroline Hahn, Jessica Kidd, Mike Hewetson, Peter McElroy, Alex Dugdale, Peter Brown and Mike Shepherd. There were also three support team drivers, an IT support person and numerous local organisers involved. All types of bike were represented: Harleys, BMW trailies, sports bikes, sports tourers, classics, and retro bikes. Each biker covered at least 1250 miles and some had covered over 1500 by the time they got home again. More than 35 hours of state-of-the-art CPD covering a wide range of topics, largely dictated by the expertise of the bikers themselves, were delivered. It was certainly a major feat of endurance on physical, mental and emotional levels and was the first time anything like this had been done in the UK.

Attendance at the events was free of charge, although commensurate donations were expected. Attendances varied from 40 to 70 reflecting the enthusiasm for this unique and unusual charitable CPD event.

Most of the bikers gathered in Liverpool the night before the tour commenced. Mike Hewetson had travelled the farthest, coming from Finland to join in, but Josh Slater and David Bolt racked up the most first-day miles by riding up from London. Mike Shepherd, the most experienced of the riders and who had completed the Dakar rally, unfortunately had a bad accident on the A14 on his way to join the team. Although he was hurt badly and his bike was wrecked, he made his way to Bristol to rejoin the team on day 2.

When the bikers arrived en masse at Leahurst in pouring rain, the lecture theatre was near capacity. The first CPD programme delivered eight papers covering a wide range of topics.

The team then set off for Bristol arriving in Langford that evening. The trip down the M6 in pouring rain gave every rider a shower from the waves of water when passing lorries. No-one seemed downhearted, but all hoped for better weather.

The eight-lecture programme delivered the next day covered entirely different topics from those covered at Leahurst. Mike Shepherd included a presentation on the Dakar Rally, which he then gave at all the subsequent venues. Sadly by the time everyone arrived at the RVC stopover, Peter McElroy had succumbed to food poisoning and retired – only to pop up again for the Scottish leg.

The third day was tough, with the team presenting a different set of lectures again at the RVC before setting off for Cambridge for an evening session of CPD, where yet another programme was presented, bringing the day's total to 10 hours of talks.

After a night spent listening to lorries thundering by on the A14, and a 06:30 start, the next stop was the Nottingham faculty buildings at Sutton Bonington. A great attendance characterised the Nottingham leg. Peter Brown thought he could join us only for Bristol and Nottingham, but he had caught the bug and continued on to Scotland. Then came the long motorway dash up the A1(M) to some amazing hospitality laid on at the Newcastle Racecourse. On the way to Edinburgh, we passed Nigel Mansell pedalling madly uphill on a fundraising tour; we were happy to be on real bikes! The Edinburgh session was really great, with a near-capacity lecture hall. As the programme drew to a close, a deafening roar could be heard outside – the Dunedin Harley Group had arrived to ‘escort’ us to the overnight stop near Falkirk. The riders came in to see Derek's presentation about the Bamako centre. The experience of being surrounded by a herd of massive Harleys and great people was a highlight of the trip.

On the final day, the scenic route to Glasgow meant travelling down windy lanes at high speed in the rain, an experience that challenged the less experienced riders and thrilled the others. Jessica Kidd, going too fast, didn't see a small bridge and went sailing through the air to land 10 feet further on, much to the amusement of Mike Shepherd waiting at the crossroads ahead.

All good things have to come to an end and the bikers parted company for their rides home after what was a truly amazing experience.The comments from delegates were universally positive: a unique event in a charitable cause gives a completely different sentiment to the concept of compulsory CPD.

n Full colour notes of all 28 presentations given on the tour are available from Alex Dugdale at Leahurst (e-mail in return for a donation (£40 to £50 suggested). Anyone who missed the tour but who would like to make a contribution to the cause is invited to visit

The team would like to thank all the businesses and individuals who contributed to the success of the event.

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