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Coronavirus..... COVID-19... Let’s be honest, we’re all bored of hearing about it now. But it’s the current, very stark, reality we’re all facing and it doesn’t look like life is set to return to normality any time soon.
There’s obviously serious stuff going on in the world, and I could chew over for hours the different perspectives of COVID-19. Biowarfare, climate change, restructuring markets, the east taking over the west.... the list goes on! But enough of sounding like Joe Goldberg from popular Netflix series, You, what does it all mean for us horse lot?!
So many of us have been hit financially. We can’t teach clients or sell horses. We can’t even produce horses for future sales as we’re house bound. Liveries are looking to turn horses out to save money. None of us can train or compete, and some liveries aren’t even able to travel up to see their horse which is enough to send any of us mad. Vets can no longer perform diagnostic appointments which has a knock on time effect to anything with performance issues. Lumber yards have shut and so shavings are set to be more expensive than gold leaf. This will have huge untold ongoing implications on the equestrian world. Badminton has been cancelled for god’s sake!
But let me draw reference from a hugely important figure in popular culture.... Kathy Bates’ character Patricia in P.S I Love You. Yes that’s right... P.S I Love You. First things first, let’s get it out of the way. Gerard Butler... I know, he’s delicious, and yes I would definitely eat my dinner off him. But what’s important is one of Kathy’s closing lines of the film - “If we’re all alone, then we’re all in that together too.”
And those are words to live by right now. You, me, the girl you’re stabled next door to, the family down the road, Oliver Townend, Charlotte DuJardin, Scott Brash... we’re all in exactly the same boat. We feel stranded right now, and it’s a feeling of solitude. Gone are our trips out to our trainer, Pony Club, Riding Club, or shows.
We can’t control the chaos going on around us, we can’t control who follows social distancing guidelines, or the daily healthcare statistics. We can’t control what percentage of our wage the government are going to give us and we definitely cannot control whatever is going on with Boris’ hair. But what can we control? Well the relationship we have with our horses.
It’s not for me to say if it’s right or wrong to keep riding during this crisis. Some will continue to ride and others won’t. But if you’re lucky enough to be in a position to still be able to enjoy horses at any level, then take a breath, smile to yourself.... you are so very, very lucky.
Now is the time to do all the things you want to get done, but riding, family or, god forbid, working takes priority.
So here are my top tips for surviving the end of the world;
Have a tack room clear out, get yourself on eBay and build up a pot of pocket money to spend when we can be released back out into the wild again! Although it’s not advisable to travel to the post office to send your parcels, you can book courier services online and post things out that way.
I recently saw a post on Facebook where one family are writing down all the things they wish they could do, as and when they miss them. They put them in a jar to work their way through when our travel restrictions have been lifted again. Maybe we could all do a similar equestrian version! I for one have always wanted to do the Burghley Cross Country ride and have always claimed it’s too far to drive for a fun ride.... god I wish I could just drive somewhere now!
Tidy up the yard, if you’re in a position to do so. Is there anything more pleasing than walking on to the yard and seeing everything in its place, or freshly painted, jet washed and scrubbed?
Go through your rug collection... Yes your collection, no you don’t need 17 stable rugs for one horse. Yes I know they might come in handy if we get a real Siberian blast next winter that leaves us snowed in until June, but you’ve just ordered another in the sale.
Groom your horse... when was the last time you set aside some time to really, really groom your horse. We’re all guilty of overlooking it in favour of trying to master leg yield. To think, when I was 7 years old I would have sold my mum and dad for just an hour with anyone’s pony and grooming kit. I’ve lost my way...
Clean the lorry! I need not say anymore.
For when you’re stuck at home... ignite your inspiration again. When was the last time you got to sit at home with no rush to be anywhere else and just indulge in your own inspiration? Re-watch Badminton of past years, subscribe to a training website such as wehorse.com and watch the top riders’ training videos, visit horsemart.co.uk and look for your future Olympic partner or read veterinary articles about all those things you hear about but don’t know about and learn something new. Make some plans. Training plans, competition plans, personal goals. It can be anything you like. We all know the benefits to writing down our goals and then structuring a plan around them.
I guess exercise is something you could investigate, but honestly I prefer Pringles.
Good things almost always come from terrible things. Amongst the panic and the madness, we’ve been given the rarest of chances to hit the reset button and take a breath. You’re allowed to be a teenager again, without the homework. Unless you’re an actual teenager, in which case, sorry to hear about the homework.
You’re not alone in feeling lost without a routine; we equestrians are creatures of habit after all! But use this quiet time to find a new rhythm. Maybe it’s not so important right now to ride the squarest of square halts or jump clear round the most enormous and technical of courses. Maybe right now it’s about taking a minute to be content, to fall back in love with the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning and keeps us up thinking about it at night, so that once we are allowed to go back out and get on with all the things we want to do, we’re so very grateful and so much more productive for it!
Our horses don’t know about age classes or championships or even pony club camp. They’re happy to be enjoyed all the other days of year as well.
It’s really rubbish right now, and it is incredibly lonely. But how lucky are we to be part of a community and a culture which brings us so much that we find it so hard to say goodbye to, even if it’s just for a short while?
Keep smiling, the world hasn’t ended just yet...