13, April, 2020

Why do you ride horses? It’s possibly not really a question you’ve asked yourself, at least not with any real intent. You just do. You always have. Or you always wanted a horse when you were a child so when you had the chance to get one when you were an adult, you did. Maybe you grew up on a farm, maybe your family were horsey. Maybe you wanted to participate in a sport but detested the idea of running or jumping or throwing a ball. Every now and then, when the farriers bill arrives or it’s pouring rain for the 7th straight day and it’s dark and cold and you still need to go out and feed, you might wonder why the hell you do it, but for the most part, it is simply part of who we are.

Now we find ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic and everything about how we live our lives has changed, including how we go about our riding. Not only have the goalposts shifted, the rules of the game are unrecognisable. For some, we’re not riding at all – our yards might be on lockdown or we’ve made the ethical decision not to put ourselves in harm’s way. With no lessons to go to, no shows on the horizon and no race meetings in the calendar, a lot of people are struggling with motivation, or have decided to furlough the horses as well as their jobs. On that note, most people’s disposable income is reduced and without any certainty, even the most privileged are being more guarded with their spending. A number, of course, will be making the most of having no outside commitments and if it were at all possible, are spending even more time at the yard than they were previously.

Most people see to be in some sort of holding pattern until we get to ‘the other side’ but the reality is, our new normal is going to look nothing like it does currently. It’s going to be a very long time before the way we interact socially and partake of our entertainment and participate in sport looks anything like it did three short months ago.  Social distancing of one form or another will need to continue, and global travel will be also be limited. As I said in a previous blog, we are fortunate with our sport in that we can participate without getting too close to one another but the spectator heavy international events and indoor shows are likely to be impacted for a year or two at least. The downturn in the economy will make corporate sponsorships more difficult to come by at the very time they’ll need them to cover for reduced spectator numbers. If you compete at a lower level, you might not think this a big deal, but the trickle down effect in our disciplines economies and the massive impact that will likely have at the elite level of the sport will affect us all.

What this pandemic will do is focus us all. Those that are being kept away from their horses now will doubtless be frustrated and feeling like something is missing and even those that are lucky enough to be at the yard will be feeling the lack of the social aspect of shows and the challenge of meeting their personal goals. If you’re short of funds you (or your other half!) might be looking very carefully at why you ride horses. But now, the answer will be easy. It’s simply part of who we are.

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