I’m not sure where to start with this post.
Do I start on March 23, when the boarding stable where I keep my horse had to close to the public – not only for the riding school, but including owners of horses boarded there?
Or do I start with my growing anxiety about my 25-year-old horse, who has been kept in pretty good physical condition through regular exercise, both by me with groundwork, and by the lovely woman who pays to half-lease him and rides him 3 times a week?
I know that I have been at home, alone with my dogs, for weeks now. I have actually lost count of the days.
But – I’ve been very worried about Chips (that’s his barn name ). I’m sure that at his age, going for weeks without exercise, he’s losing condition – older horses lose condition fast and put it back on slow, and it is my experience based on the years I have spent around and working with horses, that horses that are kept in regular exercise live longer than those who get put out to be “pasture potatoes”.
And even though I have an unshakeable and absolute knowledge that he is in the best of hands, he may not understand why we – me and my half-boarder (he loves us both, such a fickle boy!) – are not there for him. (I’m not sure exactly how a horse’s brain works, but I do know that he recognizes my footsteps as I approach his stall, and gives a little ”huff” out his nose when he knows I’m walking down the aisle towards him).
I have been forbidden by the Government to see my horse for 6 weeks now. I know that as far as feed, water, turnout, and even his hoof care ( HUGE thanks to Annalisa – you ROCK!!) he is doing very well for his basic needs. This is more than can be said for several stables that I have heard about, where basic care is increasingly becoming beyond the abilities of the proprietors.
But – I am 66 years old, and Chips will be 26 on May 7th – we don’t have a lot of time left together. Being unable to see him, spend time with him, and give him some directed exercise, beyond turnout – where he stands around eating hay – has been something I have been struggling to live with.
Several weeks ago my daughter suggested that I offer to ask if I could be hired on as “night staff”, to give the last feed of hay and the last check of the stables at night. This is something I have done in the past, as a voluntary thing when I happen to be the last person at the stables. But asking to make it an official duty? I resisted the idea, because I respect the owners, and I knew there was a limit to the people who were allowed to work as essential workers at the stables, and I didn’t want to push the owners into skirting the rules. So I let the idea sit in the back of my mind.
This week it finally became too much for me, and even though I knew it could put the stable owner in a shaky position, I finally asked them if they could “hire” me as “night staff”. I’d give the last hay feed, sweep the stables, make sure the horses in the paddocks were secure – and it would give me the opportunity to get into the arena when nobody could see me and at least lunge my horse, in an effort to try to keep him fit, for however long this will last. There would be no mention of remuneration – the permission to use the arena would be all I asked.
Well, with my usual impeccable timing (as always, embarrassing – if only I had waited one more day!), today Cheval Quebec sent out a very vague, but hopeful, communiqué saying that they were making strides towards allowing owners into barns. It’s still very open to interpretation, but the owners of the stables, a husband and wife team, ( I cannot stress how happy I am that my horse is in their hands) have done a live video explaining things as they see them.
We’ll know more tomorrow, but for now, I’m very optimistic!
And I owe an apology to my barn owners, for even suggesting that they skirt the rules for me.