The coronavirus outbreak means the next few months look like being the most extraordinary period in the lives of all of us who did not see the last world war.
The speed of change has been unbelievable. At Tweseldown two weeks ago, “washing” was all about how many early season events would be washed away by the rain. Now, washing is all about hands, and a bit of rain seems like a minor concern.
Those who were at events last weekend said it felt like the last horse show on earth. People who were far from home scrambled to catch planes back to loved ones. Freelancers hedged their bets on which side of the Atlantic was likely to provide work soonest, with free movement between the two shutting down.
Meanwhile social media was awash with questions. Can I ride if I’m self-isolating? Will my livery yard look after my horse?
Of course we all continue to prioritise our animals’ welfare, but it’s amazing how quickly many normal concerns recede in these situations. Suddenly, thoughts are with elderly or sick relatives and friends, how we can best protect and help them.
For many, having three showjumps down or losing the chance to ride in a grassroots championships regional qualifier doesn’t seem important any more.
At H&H, last week was characterised by a creeping realisation that the equestrian calendar was going to be decimated. We watched social media announcements come in thick and fast and started contingency plans to replace sport report pages with features.
We are buying up features in large quantities instead of loo roll. Don’t worry; our offering over the coming months will be a lot more imaginative than many people’s stockpile.
This issue went to press just hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that all non-essential social contact should stop and emergency workers will no longer support mass gatherings.
By the time you read this, there will have been announcements by British horse sport’s governing bodies, but against such a background it’s hard to see events continuing to run.
Timescales are uncertain and while as H&H went to press the official line was that the Olympic Games are still on, everyone is asking the question. If they do go ahead, there will be few athletes whose build-up has not been affected in some way by this pandemic and certainly many rider’s programmes have already been interrupted.
You will care again
Everyone knows the economic consequences of this pandemic will be great, as well as the human cost. And the horseworld will not be immune to the hit – show centres are going to struggle without income and many people will have less disposable cash, the consequences of which are far-reaching in our industry. All our lives will be affected for months and years to come.
Hold on to the fact that at some point in the future, you will again drink champagne to celebrate a red rosette, cry tears of joy over a precious qualification, punch the air as you celebrate a long-awaited clear round. Such things may seem trivial now, but we will need hope to get us through the next few months, which promise to be frightening and tedious in equal measure.
Ref Horse & Hound; 19 March 2020