Where to start?! I don’t want to dwell too much on negatives of the situation we’re all in, as I am pretty sure we are all feeling the same; worried about the health of our loved ones, and ourselves, feeling insecure in our jobs or businesses, panicking a bit about our bank balances and getting used to being in close proximity to the family 24/7! Since we went into lockdown last weekend, my wife, Penny, and I have been working all the hours in the day covering the yard, training the horses, liaising with owners, sifting through all the government help for businesses, and reacting as quickly as possible to develop new, and promote existing, online areas of the business.
It has been a bit of a whirlwind, but now we have been able to take a breath and be so thankful for the fact that our family is healthy and living on a stunning farm where we are able to continue running parts of our business. Although we have had to postpone all our clinics, camps and lessons, we still have a yard full of horses that were in on training to look after, although we have turned most out on the spring grass for a break while we’re in lockdown. I have some of my own horses in work at the moment and I am doing a lot of very beneficial groundwork, such as close contact lungeing and longlining, so I can limit the amount of ridden work I need to do at this time.
The equestrian world is made up of so many self-employed people and small businesses like mine. Running a yard is labour-intensive and incurs unavoidable costs to ensure that horse welfare is kept a priority, so of course, we can’t just “shut up shop” and wait until it all blows over.
We’ve also had to be very proactive to quickly find ways to adapt and connect with the world. Over the past week, Penny and I have been doing daily ‘Coffee Break Catch ups’ at 11am via Facebook Live, and we live-streamed our usual monthly ‘Coffee Morning Demonstration’ last Friday, too. In usual circumstances, I open the yard every month for people to come and watch us work with horses that are currently in on training, so they could see anything from a first ride on a young horse, to retraining a bucking horse, to working with a reluctant loader. As with all my demonstrations, they are ‘real-life’ and hopefully show that horse training is a journey, not a perfect process! As the first online coffee morning went well (such a relief when the technology works!) and proved popular, I’ve decided to live stream them every Friday, along with an accompanying Q&A session, which I hope will provide some great learning opportunities for those signing up, and will certainly keep me busy!
I will also be able to give more attention to my online horse training resource, Your Horsemanship, which I developed about four years ago. I have always known that there is so much potential in online education, and judging by the number of online fitness, business, horse and dog training courses that are now popping up on my social media feed, I am certainly not the only one to recognise this! At the very least, these online programmes can keep us connected to the worlds we love, and at best can really help us progress and reach our goals, whatever sphere that may be in. On that note, I was so lucky that my Centre 10 applied psychology for equestrian coaches course was able to run at the beginning of March. Founded by my friend, Charlie Unwin and Sarah Huntley, it provided a fascinating insight into coaching and a made me take a good look at my own beliefs and coaching practices. I have lots of homework to get through though, so it looks like I won’t be getting through too many Netflix series during lockdown!
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These are indeed unprecedented and scary times, but we need to grasp the opportunities it provides to spend time with our nearest and dearest and create new working lives for ourselves. I am finding great pleasure in the natural world continuing around us; the spring grass is providing my horses with shiny coats and full bellies, the sock lambs that we bought a week ago are entertaining my kids and getting them reconnected with their parents’ farming backgrounds(!), our broodmares are looking ready to pop and there is an abundance of daffodils around the farm. Sometimes, you have to appreciate these small miracles of life all around us to keep the smile on your face. Take care, all.
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