For most of us, the thought of not being able to spend quality time with our horse, to not be able to train and compete would be something out of a nightmare. Instead, it’s our reality. We find ourselves in a bizarre state of questions being asked.
Can I go up to the yard to visit my horse? Can I ride him? Am I allowed to hack out or will I be judged? Do I carry on training for that competition next month?
Some people are actually continuing to ride, all be it in a “low risk” way. If there is such a thing when it comes to horses, although Government advice is to limit any activity that might add to the NHS workload. Most horse owners would argue that no-one knows their animal better than they do!
But what about those that are fighting this epidemic on the front lines? The ones working 12-hour shifts, who are also equestrians. Do they have time to ride? Do they feel they can with the stress of keeping a worldwide virus from spreading further?
Amy is a nursing assistant who works for the NHS, and owns a three year old.
Amy had just started to break her horse in, but with the extra shifts she’s working, that has all but ground to a halt. Amy also has a 22 year old who is off work with an injury. He was due to have monthly scans and check ups from her vet, which won’t happen now as the vets are only attending vital call outs. Sadly, this may slow down his recovery which is obviously very concerning for Amy.
Karla is a radiographer for the NHS with four horses. She has two children with her husband who’s a surgeon .
They are both busy fighting this epidemic on the frontline. Trying to organise shift patterns to look after her children is tricky, but it sounds like they are doing a great job.
“When we aren’t at work, we are trying to keep things fun for the boys. We don’t want their only memory of this summer to be Mum and Dad stressing about work. So, we had a ‘Not so Grand’ National on hobby horses”
For Karla, work is full on now. Every suspected Covid-19 patient has a chest X-ray, so she’s spending a lot of time in PPE which she says gets uncomfortable after a while. Karla’s four horses are kept at home, and with all competitions cancelled for the foreseeable future, she says she’s eased off the harder training of her main competition horse. Choosing instead to do some gentle schooling and hacking.
Bryony works for the East of England ambulance service. She owns a horse and competes regularly. Due to her increased workload, Bryony’s unable to spend as much time as she would like with her horse. Currently, she is only able to do in hand hacking and ridden work in the school. Bryony realises she needs to appreciate time spent with her horse.
“It’s amazing how much riding helps your wellbeing and mental health. You don’t realise those things always, until something like Covid-19 happens. You realise you’ve taken all those normal yard and riding activities for granted.”
It’s important to continue to enjoy our horses in whatever capacity we can. This is not just because horses and ponies don’t know about the epidemic, and still need their cuddles and attention but also because being with your horse is a healthy, wholesome medication to being cooped up in isolation. We must look after our mental health not just our physical health.
Carey is a British Horse Society Coach and event rider, who is also a doctor from Oban, Scotland. Having qualified as a coach, Carey traveled to America to teach riding. On return to England, Carey evented and taught at Pony Club before starting his training to becoming a doctor.
He now works in a remote hospital that provides surgical, emergency, and high dependency care to the Hebrides, and about half of the highland region. Carey’s rota has changed 5 times in a week, as they have to be able to compensate for sick leave and isolation.
“Several of my colleagues are unwell. But it’s a professional, close-knit team and we are managing with the expected work load at this time. As a tourist hot spot, we are urging people to stay away, and people seem to be listening.”
When he’s allowed to again, Carey can’t wait to visit his family down in Suffolk, where he hopes to experience some normality, riding again.
A sunny ride around a peaceful farm sounds exactly the type of medicine a hard-working doctor, and all our dedicated NHS staff needs once this is all over.
For all the latest on COVID-19, please refer to a bona fide source of information, such as https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
Report by Robert Edwards for Equestrian Life