I had prepared an amusing and lighthearted story for everyone, and THEN a pandemic arrived.
Generally speaking, I can see the lighter side of most things, but perhaps not a global pandemic.
Equestrians are people who tend to come together and stick together during challenging times. When life becomes difficult, we get together to commiserate, and we rally (usually there are copious amounts of food and booze involved).
At this point, the safest thing for all of us is to maintain a bit of isolation. This is certainly not an easy thing for people who band together when the world is scary and uncertain.
I have such a clear memory of the amazing dressage community in Region 8 coming together after the tragedy of 9/11. We were just days away from the NEDA Fall Festival, which in those days was held in Halifax, Massachusetts. It seemed almost impossible that the show would go on in the wake of such a national disaster. But somehow, it happened. I felt nothing but pride and amazement in my fellow equestrians. For those few days, we made each other stronger, held each other up, and faced incredible sadness and uncertainty together. To this day, I can’t imagine being surrounded by a better group of people when the world felt like it was on the brink of disaster.
While we have not seen horror like that day since, profound fear and uncertainty are in the air this week. And we can not be together.
At least, not physically.
In this day and age, we can get more creative! We can have FaceTime dinner parties, simply and easily text one another to check in, and use all the various forms of social media to feel less isolated. Does this replace a good, old fashioned hug? Perhaps not, but it softens the blow. (And keeps the germs from spreading!)
I also find that equestrians hate to sit around and wait for things to get better. We want to help! So what can we do?
For my part, following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I am continuing to teach my students, using healthy social distancing and plenty of sanitizing wipes on tack between riders. Since most of my riders are children, I really think that some normalcy helps them feel reassured that the world is not about to implode.
My husband and I are also visiting the local restaurants and businesses that we would typically patronize. However, instead of staying for a meal or shopping, we are purchasing gift cards to use once business picks up again. We live in a small town, and the local small businesses really appreciate this income.
Anyone employed in the horse industry whose income relies on shows will also be struggling right now with all the cancellations. You can buy gift certificates for braiding and lessons. Order barn and show supplies from your favorite pop-up shop online. Reach out to your local horse rescues to make sure they have the supplies they need.
We are choosing to drastically limit/eliminate our entertainment and social time in the community. We can only hope that in a few weeks, these steps will have slowed the spread of this terrible virus to a level that hospitals can manage.
So, in the meantime: Wash your hands! Don’t touch your face. Please stop hoarding the TP. (I am out. But I am clever and managed to build myself a box-wine fortress. #priorities) We will get through this and can go back to our normal lives of giant, food-filled equestrian gatherings. Until then, be strong my friends. I truly believe that together, or not, the horse community is the best and strongest one to be a part of.
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!).