Last week felt like it was approximately 324 days long. With the COVID-19 situation changing almost hourly, I believe that any person in any business was feeling the strain of keeping up and making good choices.
I found this time particularly distressing, as both my sister and mother (and other family members and friends) are nurses or work in the healthcare field. Reports from the front lines have been upsetting. So, while my own business and job feel challenging at the moment, I am immediately given perspective watching my loved ones put themselves in danger to fight this virus.
This brings me to the important lessons learned from Week 1 of Pandemic 2020.
Privilege: What a privilege it is to own horses. To ride. To enjoy this lifestyle.
But more so, we are used to the privilege of being able to go where we want, when we want. To rarely worry about limitations on what we can buy. To (mostly) have some level of job security. THIS is privilege. To have any of our freedoms taken is a real wake-up call for most. To see stores almost empty of food and supplies is a first for me. To know that, at any time, we could be asked to shelter at home. To have significant restrictions on social activities. These current changes really outline the amazing lives and freedoms that most of us enjoy daily. Several weeks ago I never could have imagined asking my clients to limit time here in the stable with their horses. I could not imagine taking away such a right! But all of them realize the magnitude of privilege that horse ownership represents, and they appreciate and respect the limitations. And all of us understand how generally very, very fortunate we are.
Priorities: I have been maintaining contact with my clients, most of whom are extremely busy people. Between work and juggling incredible numbers of family commitments, these people are on the go.
On repeat, I have heard stories of families embracing the extra time. Realizing that, perhaps, the non-stop lifestyle is not as splendid as they thought. Many people are finding time to reconnect, calling friends to check in, making sure neighbors are well and have what they need. If nothing else, perhaps all of us will find that this time helps us to reconsider what really is important.
Preparedness: On the equine business end of things, my local fellow small stables owners and I have formed a call list to use in case one of us falls ill. You never really think of what might happen to the horses you look out for if you get sick, until the reality of it stares you in the face. All of us have discovered that this is a good time to update barn information, organize the stable and create information sheets in case there is a relative stranger looking after things. This is actually a really great thing to do in advance of any sort of emergency, and having all my ducks in a row has given me some comfort.
Philanthropy: Now IS the time to donate to your local horse rescue. (Or animal shelter, says the dog lover.) This is also the time to pre-pay for some lessons, to support your local business, to ask the kids who normally do the odd jobs at the stable for future assistance (and maybe toss them a few bucks in advance).
Perspective: As a horse person, I learned long, long ago that one must constantly be willing to adjust, redirect and gracefully transition to Plan B. Six months ago, when I was starting the very early planning for 2020 with my clients, we never could have imagined being faced with such a challenge. At a time when we know that the show season may be creative, to say the least, we are keeping perspective. The most important thing at the moment is to remain healthy and to hope our loved ones do the same. There will come a time when we can return to riding, competing and participating in the way we are accustomed to. Riding will always be there for us. There will always be another show season. Missing some riding, some clinics or some competition is a small price to pay. We must remember, nothing is more important than our health.
And on that note. Stay healthy; stay safe. And (seriously) quit hoarding the TP, because I still can’t purchase any, and I’m getting pretty concerned.
I’m Sara Bradley, a full-time dressage trainer (and stall mucker) from the lovely state of Maine. Most of my time is spent educating young horses and young children at my facility, Waterford Equestrian Center (and yes, I do like to instruct mature horses and humans as well!).