This morning a press release from a larger regional horse show facility popped into my inbox. The gist of the email was that this facility is, as of right now and if everything works out, going to host their AA-rated spring show series at the beginning of May. As I was reading this, my initial thought was “great, something to look forward to,” followed quickly by the sharp realization that almost nobody aside from trainers will have ridden in nearly a month.
Over the weekend we found out that the government has extended the social distancing guidelines until April 30. It’s yet to be seen if states or the USEF will also extend their restrictions around the COVID-19 outbreak, but let’s assume that they do.
Many barns have closed to lessons and boarders with the only people being allowed in are the trainer and essential staff to feed, clean, and exercise horses. I 100% support this for a myriad of reasons and even though I miss my horse like crazy, I know he’s perfectly fine.
Assuming barns reopen on April 30, that would give people less than a week to get ready for this show that I know has been on many barn’s schedules as a given, year in and year out. Will trainers skip it because they know their people aren’t ready? Will owners and riders go easy on their horses and themselves because for many, this is going to be their first show of the season? If there is a God and he doesn’t like loose horses running around horse shows, I hope so.
As a thirty-something year old amateur, I know six days in the saddle after a month off isn’t enough for me to be ready to go from home office to AA show and have it be successful. No amount of home yoga, sit ups, or running laps around the house will ever replace the workout I get when I ride. Don’t get me wrong, my eye will be fine, but my back will be stiff and my legs wobbly.
No matter how much my brain screams for my body to move in a certain way, my poor form will just not be able to do it as perfectly as before. So when my horse, who has had my trainer Jane Fonda him into the picture of health and obedience, feels my clumsy and bizarre cues, he will either roll his big brown eyes and keep going like a saint or actually do all the crazy things my leg and hand aids are asking him to do.
I know we’re going to go through an awkward time while my fitness plays catch up to his, and I’d rather do it at home. I also know that I’m fortunate – my horse is quite forgiving and also still in work – two things that are not a reality for everyone.
I know the entire equestrian community is going to be in a hurry to get the horse show economy back up and going, but we really need to be careful with our horses and ourselves. There are going to be those of us that bounce back really fast, but there’s going to be a lot of us that don’t and it’s OK.
Good trainers won’t pressure an unfit horse and/or rider to go to a show just because it was on the schedule and they need the money. There’s other ways to make that money that won’t cause an injury or them to lose a client (and lord knows we are all going to need plenty of lessons). Nobody wants to see rings held up over and over because unprepared riders keep coming off their horses. Nobody wants to see a horse or rider get hurt.