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You don’t have to tell me it’s irresponsible to ride right now, I already know.

The past few months have been rough on the entire world as a whole. People are dying, people are getting sick, losing their jobs, losing time with their friends and family, unable to celebrate birthdays, weddings, or even have funerals. Schools are closed, shops are running out of supplies or their workers are being assaulted for enforcing purchase limits. People are stuck at home, trying to make things work while also terrified they’re going to be the next statistic. Hospitals are overcrowded, short-staffed, and under-supplied. I’ve seen stories of people who haven’t seen their beloved lesson horse, lease horse, or boarded horse in weeks and are desperately missing their time with these calming animals. The world seems scarier now than almost any other time I can remember, probably right up there with the 9/11 attacks. 

I am blessed that I’ve been able to go to the barn every day and see my horse, spend time with her, brush her, feed her, give her a kiss on the nose. I think about the people who can’t see their horses and my heart breaks. I wish every day that this crisis would pass so that life can go back to “normal”- or at least as normal as it could possibly be after what we’ve been through in this awful time. 

The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful for me and I haven’t been handling the trauma well. I spent two weeks worrying that my best friend had the virus, waiting desperately for her test results to come back, taking over the duties of caring for the horses every day, and also taking over walking dogs that needed care. I was also making store runs for her and for other families we know who couldn’t go out because of health issues. And though I’m happy to help out those who need it, every trip to the store came with a bucket-load of stress.

What if this is the time I get sick? What if I come into contact with something and take the virus back to those I’m trying to protect? If I get sick, who’s going to take care of the horses? 

A simple grocery run turned into paranoia. I already don’t like crowds, now I’m turning into a germaphobe on top of that! Every time I have to go to a public place, I worry about if I have enough hand sanitizer (I don’t, I’m nearly out and can’t find any in our area) or if I’m going to accidentally touch my face before I can get somewhere to wash my hands. I’m an anxious person anyway, but all the uncertainty has added heaps of stress onto my shoulders- to the point where I’d lay down at night and have to force my shoulders to un-tense so I could actually get comfortable and fall asleep. 

And during this time, because of my best friend being in isolation, I’ve only ridden my horse a handful of times. But I have ridden, and every time I tack up I feel immensely guilty for it. There are people out there not able to see their horses, and who are forgoing riding so that they don’t have an accident and end up in the hospital and taxing more of the resources that are needed for the sick. I’ve read the articles about not riding, I’ve seen the sacrifices other riders are making, and I have intense guilt for saddling up and getting on. 

But I do it anyway. Because being with my horse, getting in the saddle and riding is the only bit of “normal” that I have right now. Because horse time is my therapy time and right now I desperately need it. Because the time spent brushing, tacking up, and riding is the only time I’m not thinking about getting sick. It’s a much needed mental vacation right now that I probably shouldn’t be taking but I feel like I’m going to lose it if I don’t. 

So, yes, I know that I shouldn’t be riding right now. I know that other equestrians are making the sacrifice of not putting themselves in danger so they don’t potentially make things harder for the doctors and nurses that are fighting right now. But I also know that without riding I’m going to be an incoherent ball of anxiety in a padded room before April is over. Besides, I could slip and fall in the shower and end up in the hospital, but you’d better believe that I’ve been washing my hair. I could walk to the mailbox that’s fifty feet from my front door and get hit by a car. I could be in my kitchen cooking dinner and cut my own finger off by accident.

I’m going to continue doing the one thing that still feels somewhat normal because without a bit of sunshine in my life my mental health is going to be worse than ever. If it makes anyone fell any better, I’ll be wracked with guilt about it the entire time before I ride, because I’ll know that I should be making that sacrifice. 

I truly hope that soon those who are separated from their heart horses will be reunited with them, and that all this madness will be a bad memory. Until that time, do whatever will help you make it through, so long as you do that thing as safely as possible. Make sure you’re washing your hands, covering your mouth whenever you leave the house, and staying home as much as possible!

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