I’m home, in (mostly) one piece. Longtime readers will be shocked, shocked I say!, to learn that I had two tires go boom on the trailer on my way home from Florida, turning a 17-hour drive, one I normally take in two days anyway, into a 19-hour one. But we made it, and the horses were absolute troupers, and the van with the other nine arrived the next day with everyone safe and sound. And now… well, yeah. What about now?
My barn is closed for a little while longer. I’m one of the gazillions of small business owners who applied for a PPP loan only to find the program has run out of money. I’ve had to cancel three clinics, to the tune of thousands of dollars in revenue. And my partner is furloughed, taking us from a two-income household to a one-plus-unemployment-income household.
This is not a whine. I’m abundantly aware of how lucky I am that I can work at all, and that my work is relatively—RELATIVELY—easy to keep clean and safe. And I’m not dealing with anything that is unique in this world. But lest there was anyone thinking of raking their barn owner over the coals for doing what they can to keep you all safe, just don’t.
The closure means my staff and I are riding everything, but since the return from Florida is a great time to do very little, the timing of the pandemic is, oddly, terrific. And before reopening, I brought in our fantastic sports medicine veterinarian for a round of exams and “tune-ups” on all the horses, so they will be fresh, fit and healthy before we bring the clients back.
For my own horses, it’s mostly a bit of a break time. Elvis and Puck are WIPED. They’re entitled—Elvis had some chunks of downtime over the winter, but he’s also spent the last few weeks really learning about proper piaffe shape and carriage, and that’s exhausting. And Puck doesn’t really get downtime, because #badboy. So they’re plum tuckered, and a little back sore and bum sore and brain sore. They’re happy to see a veterinarian, I’m sure, and they’ll also just get to play for a while. Watching Puck bronc around in his field makes my heart happy. Elvis has already earned himself a grazing muzzle. It’s spring, and it’s time for a break.
Unfortunately for these horses, that means that Helio, Patrick and Swagger, in no particular order, will be seeing a lot more of my attention. Normally divided by five or six, they’re in for a bit of a surprise! Swagger has REALLY made progress in the last few weeks, and he even gave me a few steps of real, fancy-kneed, Big-Boy Trot the other day, something that was unheard of at the beginning of the winter. Patrick is learning about half-halts at canter, and Helio is getting SUUUUPER cool, really piaffing and sitting and carrying in the canter. That little nugget might be one of the better ones I’ve had!
So there’s plenty to get excited about, even amidst the doom and gloom of the current worldview. I am grateful, as always, to have Florida winters in my life, because I got to have a show season and make progress, so the loss of the first half of the spring competition season doesn’t hurt me so badly. Lucky me, lucky us.
But I’m still feeling the loss, like everyone else. I’m pouring some of my spring-show-energy into Virtual Cocktail Parties, three-a-week Zoom meetings with some of my favorite people, on subjects from fear to fame, vet stuff to fashion, and everything in between. It’s been fun to have something else to work on and really fun to be face to face with lots of others, of a sort. They’re free and available on-demand after the fact to members of the Sprieser Sporthorse Elite Club.
I’m also working out a lot; the internet is full of amazing workouts, and lots of people are putting theirs online for free. I’m a particular fan of OrangeTheory’s home workouts, if you like interval training (and you should because they are fantastic).
And I’m trying, above all else, to be kind and to not be afraid. I had a horrible night’s sleep a few nights ago, just fretting about all of the many, many “what if’s” in our lives today. And I found myself getting mad about the little things: an unmopped floor, the wrong type of cheese from the store, stupid things. I took a breath, stuck the dogs on a leash, and went for a walk. I saw the sun peeking through the cherry blossoms. The grass is green and thick. There are buds on the trees. The temperatures aren’t quite as foul. And in New York City, things are starting to level off. We’re far from the end, but we’re one day closer, every day. None of us are at our bests right now, and that’s just how it’s going to be. I know my horses will be better for the break. I hope that I can be, too.
Lauren Sprieser is a USDF gold, silver and bronze medalist making horses and riders to FEI from her farm in Marshall, Virginia. She’s currently developing The Elvis Syndicate’s Guernsey Elvis, Beverley Thomas and her Ellington, and her own Gretzky RV and Ojalá with hopes of one day representing the United States in team competition. Read more about her at SprieserSporthorse.com, or follow Lauren Sprieser on Facebook and Instagram.