COVID-19 has drastically affected all of our lives. However, as an equestrian Louise Dando has found that one of the hardest things to deal with, is being separated from her horse. Living in France, all stables are closed until further notice and only the yard proprietors are able to look after our horses. Louise knows this is also the situation in Italy, Spain and the parts of the US too… she questions, will the UK follow suit?
At first I will be frank with you I found it quite upsetting. I still do at times, however I know Mya (my horse) is being well looked after by our yard owner who she knows well, she lives in a lovely big field and the weather has been beautiful here this week. I, on the other hand am stuck in a two bedroom apartment with no outdoor space in the city centre. The other day when I felt particularly bored, stressed and emotional I decided that I would change my outlook as I realised that I have the power to do that and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that equestrians actually are incredibly adaptable and we could actually use this time very wisely if we have the right mindset!
So, with that in mind here is how being separated from your horse or not being able to ride during this pandemic can change your mindset for the better, as it has mine;
- Get planning! We can use this time to plan what you want to achieve with your horse once you are back riding or competing. Having something to look forward to is a great way to keep your spirits up.
- You can reassess your current methods. What was working in your current training plan? What wasn’t? Are things in your routine you could change for the better now you have the time to take a step back and assess them?
- We can use this time to learn new things. If you can still see your horse but can’t ride you could learn some in hand schooling techniques or you could learn how to lunge or long rein. If you can’t ride at all you can watch videos or read books on riding techniques that you can use when you can ride again. There are so many schooling exercises and movements I have been meaning to look up how to do before I try and ride them and now is my chance!
- Horse owners need to be so adaptable normally, we can use that skill to a grander scale with this situation. At the best of times well laid plans with horses go wrong and we are very used to that. So just remember that you are pretty adaptable already and will probably deal with this situation better than most other people as we are used to changing our plans for reasons that we cannot control all the time like shows being cancelled due to the weather or lost shoes!
- Put things into perspective. Normally our horses are forefront on our minds, however with COVID-19 making lots of people very sick, we can take this time and appreciate how lucky we are to have our horses but realise that perhaps if we cannot ride them or see them for a few weeks is probably not the worst thing that will happen during this pandemic.
- We can come together as a community, whether that is online or via WhatsApp, FaceTime etc with friends. I know our yard has been brought together in this time by our yard owner on Facebook and we have daily quizzes about the horses to keep our spirits up whilst we cannot see them. It’s weird actually I feel like I have gotten to know a lot of the girls a lot better since we haven’t been able to see each other.
- Don’t put things off unnecessarily! If this has taught us anything, if you put things off they may not ever get done. Waiting to be perfect before you try an online dressage test or not going to a show with your horse for some silly reason may have meant you missed some opportunities. Take this time to change your mindset and give it a go! I know I am so pleased I have been competing with my mare as I really miss it now. It also gives me something to look forward to when I can go riding again.
- Now is the time to do all those jobs that you never had time to do! Whether it be at home or at the yard. Tidy up your tack room, sort out your riding clothes, organise your paperwork, weed the fields or deep clean the stables. All those big jobs you never get round to doing can be done and it will feel so satisfying when they are!
- We can actually have a rest. Most horse owners are busy people and don’t ever stop. Take this time at home to have a break. I have read some articles written by Chinese teachers, who are just coming out of their enforced isolation and they say they didn’t get round to doing a lot of things they thought they would have time to do despite being in lockdown for 2 months! So read that book you have saved, listen to those podcasts you never normally have time to listen to, write those journals you always wanted to start as this time will not last forever and you can at least feel a little recharged when life gets back to normal.
- We will never take our horses for granted again. What this horrible situation has reminded me already is how very much I love my horse and riding. I will never take the time I have with her for granted again.
We can get through this! I’m here to tell you, that as equestrian, we naturally have the skills needed to get through this. Stay safe and try to think positively!