It has been two weeks since my last post, and it is amazing how the world has changed.
From my little space here in Maine, the changes have been incredible.
The last few years have brought growth and therefore relative prosperity to my area. I have been so happy to see my town bustling with activity, new businesses opening and thriving. Those changes have brought a feeling of relative economic security.
And just like that? CLOSED.
Of course, so am I. I closed my doors as soon as the “stay at home” order went into effect. While I know many equestrians feel that riding and taking lessons are essential, there is no logical or safe way for me to continue.
I took a moment to take a breath. More accurately, I felt that the air had been knocked out of me. As a sole proprietor of a small business, and as a person who tends to plan for “the worst,” THIS was not “the worst” that I had been preparing for.
My business is based almost solely on instructional riding. My worst-case scenario involved something dramatic happening to me. I envisioned myself in casts after some sort of nightmare accident. (I have a vivid imagination!) My plan involved calling in stable help and one of my few assistant instructors until I (heroically) could ride my small tractor down to the arena to resume teaching lessons. There was just no scenario that I had come up with that would have required a complete and total shut down.
Silly me not to plan for a pandemic! Lesson learned. I now have my zombie apocalypse plan fully in place as well.
For over 20 years I have been teaching lessons at least five days a week. I know what day it is not by checking the calendar, but by which students are on my schedule. I lesson plan as I am falling asleep at night. I wake up every day, toss on the same sort of riding clothing, have the same basic coffee, and start my same sort of day. On repeat. For the past 20 years. And I like it.
So you guys, I was feeling a bit alarmed. Possibly more than alarmed and moving into the territory of feeling f*n freaked out.
And then I stopped being alarmed and started being awesome. (Because that is what one does.)
More importantly, I decided to roll with the punches. If there is one thing that decades in the equine industry teach you, it is to adjust, be flexible and think things through.
Here is what I realized.
I LOVE my job. Losing my entire student body helped me know that I am absolutely supposed to be doing this. This is the correct job for me. I find no joy during the empty hours when I normally would be giving instruction. And if there is one good thing to come out of this mess, I suppose it is that. I miss my students and my barn clients in the biggest way possible! I had one hot minute of wallowing in loneliness (because I am literally a ONE small woman operation at this point).
Then, I redirected.
What could I actually do? I can’t prepare riding lessons and then run them out to your car while you wait. I can’t pick up a pony and mail him to you. So, I took a BIG step out of my comfort zone and created “virtual riding lessons” and then made a Patreon channel for my students, and others, to subscribe to.
It is an interesting (temporary) career change, trying to be an internet video star!
I have found that the thing I am best at is creating content for a future “bloopers reel” as I fumble my way around, topple over, and basically forget who I am and where I work!
I am happy to say that my students are really loving what I am creating! As nobody has school now, and everyone is just plain tired of TikTok and “Tiger King,” my content is being enjoyed! I am only one week into this, but I am beginning to find a routine in the new madness. Instead of teaching lessons, I create some educational content. Rather than spending time doing office work, I film “Workout Wednesday.” In exchange for our traditional April day camp, we are planning a live stream event. WHO AM I?
I truly (madly and deeply) look forward to getting my riders back in the saddle and getting back to life as it was.
But for life as it is now, we are all learning to adjust. Reflect a bit on what is actually important. Figure out how to make things work, during a time when very little does.
And when I get excited messages from riders, loving that they saw a video of their favorite horse, I know I am doing the right thing.
So. Until we can all go out and about again, have normal interactions, lessons, cocktails, whatever—stay safe, stay healthy and stay home in your own barn.
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!).