Anna Ross: Ways to make it through the lockdown *H&H Plus*


  • While physical health must take priority, it’s time for the equestrian community to come together and find our way forward through the coronavirus crisis.

    Thankfully, riding horses teaches us to expect the unexpected. Equestrians are used to having curveballs thrown at their plans. And while we hear a lot about the downside of social media, it’s never been more important than now and will help us all to stay connected, healthy – and in business.

    Horses play a huge part in our lives and are an outlet that many consider essential to their wellbeing and mental health. Spending time outside is proven to have psychological benefits and, in these anxious times, it’s even more important that equestrians can reduce stress.

    For British Dressage members, the shut-down period is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Looking after our horse takes up so much of our real and emotional time and energy, it’s a huge lifestyle change.

    Let’s set goals to keep us motivated. This is the time to teach the horses new things. Perhaps you’ve been avoiding teaching the flying changes in case your horse deploys them in a test. Or half steps in case he jogs in the walk? Maybe there’s a little more time to set up more complicated polework patterns.

    Squarer halts could be the legacy of this enforced break and, with more time on our hands, surely we can all give Charlotte Dujardin a run for her money for those points.

    Use the tech

    We should use technology where we can. Competing can still take place online. Dressage Anywhere, Dressage 4 All and E-Riders are great resources that offer online competitions.

    You could upload videos to your trainer, for remote training if it’s necessary. We are testing Facetime and Skype at home to see if it can be used effectively to keep training clients going.

    This is also a good time to get your music programme sorted out. Watch old videos on YouTube for inspiration, make up your programme and send it off to the freelance music producers and you’ll be ready to go once shows are back on.

    Test sheets or loo roll?

    It’s also a good time to do all those other things that there is never time to do. We have a rise in interest for embryo transfer mares to come for breeding while they are “off games”, and at the time of writing semen imports are running as normal.

    Painting, tack room tidying, competition test sheet clearing – your awful test sheets could even double up as emergency loo roll and you could wipe away those bad memories.

    With everyone stuck inside there might be a baby boom, so ponies could be in high demand in four years’ time. On the other hand, hopefully no one will use their rubber reins to strangle their spouse if stuck indoors together for too long.

    Help is at hand and as a community we should be proud that one of our former British championship team riders and secretary general of the international riders’ club, Wayne Channon, is also the chairman of a company called Stabilitech that is working on an oral vaccine for Covid-19.

    In some strange way, isolation may bring us closer together as we help and support each other. It’s never been so cool to be kind.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 26 March 2020