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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!

Buy a “Please Clean Your Hooves” sticker in my shop!
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Longer Living Through Art?

I was browsing for art news last week and stumbled across an interesting article on a site called Newser, which is apparently a site that curates news from various sources and writes easily-digestible “news briefs” about the story on their own site. Anyway, according to this article, a study was conducted to discover if exposure to the arts has any effect on lifespan.

According to the study, which was published in the BMJ, over 6700 subjects over the age of 50 when the study started were then tracked over the next 14 years. The study tracked how often the participants in the study were exposed to the arts, and how many had passed away by the end of the study. 

After controlling for other factors, the researchers found that the subjects who engaged in the arts “frequently” (at least once every few months) had a 31% lower risk of dying compared to those who never engaged in the arts. Even those who only went to an art-themed event only once or twice a year had a 14% less risk than non-engagers. 

Theories on this correlation include arts lovers being more engaged with the world at large, less sedentary, more empathetic, and less lonely, which are all factors in living longer. 

As amazingly cool as this study is, I think it’s pretty much a “No Duh!” moment for me. Despite the fact that the arts are usually the first thing cut at schools, there’s no doubt that they are extremely important. But it is nice to have a study to point to that can quantify, at least somewhat, just how important the arts are.

Creating a new piece of art, writing a story, listening to a beautiful piece of music, seeing a good movie, going to a concert, looking at something inspiring created by a fellow artist, or reading something that captures the imagination are all things I can personally count on to help with my depression and anxiety. Sometimes, when I’m feeling depressed, the best thing I can do is get out my pencils and put on some music that I love, and just get it all out in my work while I sing along at the top of my lungs. (Be glad you aren’t my neighbor, because I am not a great singer. Sorry to all my current neighbors who may have to deal with hearing me singing along to whatever music fits my fancy at the moment.)

Being an artist and being involved in art has also done wonders for my social anxiety. Joining an artist cooperative has given me a pool of other artists to gain wisdom from, and I can also teach them the things that I know. It’s lovely to know that I have a group of people with similar interests and who all have similar goals. Art means that I always have something in common to talk to my fellow co-op members with. Also, when I do a convention or a craft fair, I don’t have to be afraid to be out in the crowd, because anyone who shows an interest in my wares probably has similar interests to me, so I can talk to them about something. 

So, in my personal experiences, art of all kinds helps with my depression and anxiety, makes me more social, improves creative thinking and keeps me learning, and gets me out of the house when I maybe wouldn’t necessarily want to go be in a crowd of people. 

I guess this study just proves I’m going to live forever! What positive impact has art had on your life?


Title Image Courtesy of AenagGaz on DeviantArt.