During the last couple of days I have fallen victim to the endless scroll. As news around the world at large and within the horse world became more and more unbelievable, I found myself scrolling, scrolling through the various social media mediums, anxiously waiting to read about the next cancellation, hungry for the latest update, watching for the newest meme. Scroll, scroll, scroll.
Last week, I was at a horse show and everything was normal. This week, COVID-19, the coronavirus, has effectively brought the world to its knees and it feels like nothing is the same. Does your local grocery store look like end of days? Mine does. Thanks to my constant scrolling and the helpful people of the internet I see photo after photo of empty shelves everywhere, not only of paper products, but bread, potatoes, vegetables and so on.
Sporting events are cancelled. Disney World and Disneyland are closed. Tom Hanks has coronavirus, for Pete’s sake! And inside the horse world, as of Sunday, March 15, 2020, every rated and recognized horse show scheduled for the upcoming month around the world has been canceled.
It’s enough to push a perfectly calm and rational person to the edge. Much of my career depends on the constant schedule of horse shows rolling on smoothly throughout the year, and I’m far from alone. What will it look like for the photographers, ring crew, judges, course builders, vendors and most of all trainers if the ongoing horse show schedule comes to a screeching halt? We are about to find out.
But all is not lost. In addition to the hygiene and distancing advice that every global citizen is being very strongly encouraged to abide by (Wash. Your. Hands.), we horse people have a secret antidote. The barn has always been the place for most of us to get away from the world and find some zen, and now it’s that more than ever. It’s easy to panic over the thought of not being able to go to that show, qualify for that final, and so on. I get it. However, this is also an opportunity to take a step back, and look for a way to make the most of this collective, forced vacation.
On Friday morning I tacked up my horse and put his Western bridle on, which encourages both of us to just relax. This week I needed that reminder more than ever; holding on tight to short reins isn’t going to do me any good right now. So I let go. I put my phone on airplane mode just as the news of the World Cup Final cancellation lit up my messages and feed. And I cleared my mind on a long rein.
I don’t have any immediate plans or even goals in my riding, and that’s OK. If I don’t go anywhere at all for the next four, six, or even eight weeks, that’s OK too. We are horsemen, and we can see this time as being stuck, or we can see it as an opportunity for all of us to look inward and check in with our horsemanship. Take a little extra time to be present with your horses. Do something a little different with them at home that’s easy and achievable. Check in with your mental health. Ride on a long rein. Put your damn phone down for awhile. My horse isn’t worrying about what the world will look like next month. And for the hours that I spend with him at the barn, I will try not to worry, either.