In a world where barn time is limited (or non-existent) and lesson revenue is drying up, dressage trainer Lucy Courchaine is getting creative to bring a little levity to her clients’ week and a few extra dollars to her pocket.
After New York closed all nonessential businesses, Courchaine, 31, shut the doors of her Sapphire Sporthorses in North Salem, New York, to clients. And then she started brainstorming.
“I sort of always have a running monologue of my own personal mare, who is a little redheaded chestnut pony,” said Courchaine. “She has a big personality, so I just happened to be riding her on the first day that we closed and thought about what she’d be saying about all this, and it hit me. Oh! I could write about what they’re each doing and send them to their people.
“I was trying to be creative to find a way to keep the owners involved and send pictures and updates while also trying to figure out some small way to recoup some of the lesson revenue that I lost by closing, so I decided to come up with this subscription service of the quarantine diaries,” she said.
For $19 a week, clients can subscribe to the diary of any horse in the barn, with daily entries and photos to illustrate the horse’s week.
“It ended up being really funny and unique to each personality as I see them because I know the horses so well and ride and care for them every day,” said Courchaine. “So it was a fun outlet to provide something to the owners to keep them happy and entertained and somewhat connected while they can’t physically be in the barn.”
Courchaine runs a boutique dressage and sport horse rehab facility and has 20 horses on the property. She has a working student and two full-time grooms who are ensuring little has changed in the horses’ schedules. Courchaine said protecting her employees was the main reason she decided she had to close.
“We’re very close to the outbreak, and we couldn’t risk them not being able to do their jobs,” she said.
“I was very fortunate to have 99 percent supportive clients, and the clients who may have disagreed with it have since come around,” Courchaine said. “Originally, I had a little pushback, but not more than what other people have experienced and certainly nothing that I couldn’t explain because it makes sense. It’s not something that we want to do; it’s for the greater good at the moment.”
Courchaine said her clients have been supportive of the diaries, with many purchasing more than one horse’s. Even if an owner doesn’t participate in the diaries, she’s keeping them looped in on how their horse is doing and is sending every owner training videos.
“I sent [the diaries] all [Sunday] night, and it was really cute to get their responses this morning because each individual owner was like, ‘Oh you captured them so well,’ ” Courchaine said. “It was fun to see that they enjoyed it and thought that they were very realistic. One of my Spanish ones, I had it to be read in an Antonio Banderas accent, so there were really funny aspects of it that I think went over really well.”