The world is contaminated, everything is shut down, and Friday, Nautica ripped my arm out of its socket again.
If you see me in my car in the back of a Target parking lot, playing early 2000s alternative on blast and crying unintelligibly into the steering wheel, mind your own business.
For many of us who board our horses, our worlds are crumbling right before our eyes. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a few states have put tight restrictions on non-essential businesses. This includes animal care facilities. In these cases, only essential staff, or those in charge of keeping the animals alive, are allowed on the property. In the case of horse boarders, most of us can’t simply take our animals home with us. A mandatory shut down would mean that we couldn’t visit our horses for the duration of the time that is is in effect.
For now, Alabama isn’t entirely locked down yet. Barns aren’t mentioned specifically on the list of mandatory closings of non-essential businesses, unlike other states. My barn has requested we avoid contact with one another as much as possible and our non-boarder lesson programs have since been put on hold. I am very thankful that for now, the farm is still remaining open to boarders.
I’m not immune to the panic. I have an unusual situation in that I live on the adjacent property to Nautica’s boarding barn. I rent an apartment space from the barn’s owners and am within walking distance of the farm. This is usually a great set up; I have all the benefits of having my horse in what’s essentially my backyard but also with the advantages of full-care board.
My concerns are primarily selfish. I, like every other horse owner in the world, don’t want to leave my horse for 14-plus days. Obviously, Nautica would be entirely fine without me checking in on him like an overprotective parent, and his barn is one of the best in the area, but there’s just something about being able to put hands on him five to six days a week that gives me peace of mind. With a consistent riding schedule, we are finally seeing gains in terms of a topline and Nautica’s small, singular lower-back muscle is just now showing signs of life. We had spent our entire first year of this whole dressage journey working on undoing many of our old habits and simply being “normal”. Only in these past three months do I feel like we’re finally starting to scratch the surface of dressage. I don’t want to lose everything we’ve worked so hard on. Still, since recent events, it is always on my mind that a barn shut down may be inevitable.
It seems Nautica made the decision to begin his vacation from riding a little earlier than anticipated when he re-dislocated my arm Friday. While my shoulder was much easier to put back into socket and without medical attention this time, it is, unfortunately, much easier to fall back out. All it took was one spooky moment and him grabbing the right rein and I’m back to square one.
Furthermore, my surgery date to fix the initial tear got postponed “until further notice” due to the coronavirus pandemic. After a winter’s worth of physical therapy, no improvement in joint stability, and finally getting worker’s comp to approve the repair, I was told all elective surgeries would be put on hold indefinitely and to call back once this whole virus situation has passed. This means that once the surgery is scheduled to happen, I will then be able to begin my four-to-six-month recovery process.
So that’s where I am—Whining and generally feeling sorry for myself and all of the things I cannot change. For now, I’ve been lunging Nautica with my good arm, going on light “trail rides” around the perimeter of the paddocks, and generally enjoying my horse time while I still can.