A very happy St. Patrick’s day

I can confidently state that none of us envisaged the St. Patrick’s day we would be having this year. The weather is more or less traditional fare I admit, but the lack of a parade to attend or a pub to visit is pretty remarkable.

Myself and Libby spent an enjoyable, albeit very wet, hour out on Fenway and Merlin. With Libby just back from Moscow I was careful to stay upwind of her I can tell you! We will all be facing challenges over the coming days, weeks and, I fear, months. As horse owners we have the advantage of having livestock that are totally dependent on us and whilst this can be a drag on a day to day basis it is also a marvelous way to get head space away from the constant corona related news.  Initially I found I lost what little bit of motivation I had for riding, given that there aren’t likely to be any events to attend in the foreseeable future, but I’ve decided that every cloud has a silver lining and, with working hours severely reduced, I now have time to spend on all the little jobs around the stables that have been put on a long finger for a long time (including actually grooming Merlin).

Why not use this time to do the flat-work you’ve been avoiding, to give your tack the love and care it has been crying out for, to really thoroughly groom your horse on a regular basis (and make yourself use both your hands if you’re like me and tend to do all brushing with your right hand), to mend the fence around the arena, to take up pilates or yoga and build up those core muscles that you know are lurking in there somewhere? My most recent bit of learning was the rulebook of the AIRC…an enlightening read!

For the time being we are free to travel, and obviously riding your horse is a fairly solitary occupation that poses no risk to the general population so hacking and schooling are great ways to spend time. If a travel ban comes into effect anyone without their own arena or land to ride on could be in a spot of bother, though on the plus side a travel ban will leave the roads a lot safer for riding. According to some of the equestrian forums I follow on social media the countries that have gone into total lock-down have prohibited riding. The reason for this is that riding is considered a high-risk sport and if you did happen to take a fall you may need emergency medical attention which would pull staff from dealing with less foolhardy people. If this was implemented here it means we would be limited to lunging, long-reining or using walkers for exercising our four legged friends. It might be good to brush up on your skills in these areas, or learn them for the first time if needs be.

The down side of reduced working hours is the inevitable drop in income. This is a harsh reality for a huge number of people now. Anyone involved in the hospitality industry is definitely looking at having a lot of free time, and lets face it…Donegal relies heavily on tourism. Panic buying for me consisted of sourcing forage. Remember that horses are designed to live on forage, not hard feed. If you run out of hard feed the horses will be just fine but run out of forage and you’ll be looking at any number of potential problems. I also made sure to get another bag of hen feed. My hens were marching about with placards, campaigning for better conditions, which to be honest I can understand cause their run is a quagmire at the moment, but I explained that I was just as happy to eat chicken sandwiches as egg sandwiches and hey presto eggs are back on the menu! Smart ladies.

The one thing to remember is that THIS WILL END. The world will return to normal eventually. It may be a slightly different version of normal but we will get back out to club gatherings and competitions at some stage. We have the huge advantage now of technology that allows us to learn new skills and also to communicate across the world at the touch of a button, but we also know people who rely on the good old-fashioned telephone for communications. Let’s stay in touch with everyone and make sure we’re all getting through this time as well as possible.

Keep well, mind your mind, and enjoy your horses without the pressure of feeling that you have to be competing. Oh, almost forgot, Happy Paddy’s Day.

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