COVID-19 might be 2020’s biggest buzzkill, and in a year that’s already brought us raging bushfires and an actual plague of locusts (this is starting to sound eerily familiar, isn’t it?) that’s a pretty impressive accolade. Most of us are pretty lucky, though, all things considered – the biggest hit we’ll take is to our collective sanity, as social distancing measures move us all inside and confiscate most of our fun.
But life in the shadow of coronavirus doesn’t need to be an endless doldrum of social media scrolling, repetitive news stories, and unenthusiastic 20m circles. Think about it like this: unless you always work from home, this might be the one golden opportunity you get to make time and space for some seriously worthwhile indulgences.
- Revolutionise the concept of spring-cleaning.
Okay, okay, starting this list with cleaning of all things might not seem particularly inspiring, but hear us out. Most of us make a passable effort to keep our lives kind of organised, but when was the last time you did a proper deep-dive into your rug room, your tack trunk, or – horrors – that cupboard? There’s no time like the present to pick your victim, clear absolutely everything out, and Marie Kondo your horsey life.
- Dust off your VHS player.
Or, you know, find the classics online – but either way, get back in touch with the pony mad kid you once were and rewatch some of your favourite horsey films. International Velvet, Sylvester, The Man from Snowy River…the schmaltzier, the better. And yes, a grown-up beverage is an acceptable accompaniment to a night in with a kids’ film.
- Learn with purpose.
There might not be any shows on for the foreseeable future, but everything you learn now will be there for you when they do start up again, so why not make sure you’re ready to come back better than ever?
This is a great opportunity to check in with your basics – is your horse really working from behind into your hand, or have you been cheating the outline a little bit along the way? Are your transitions as crisp and uphill as they could be?
There are tonnes of ways to learn, even if you can’t get out for lessons – Horse&Rider’s training features have accompanying YouTube videos for you to study, and you resources like FEI Campus offer a great opportunity to dip into something new.
- Give online competitions a whirl.
Desperate to show off what you’ve spent the winter working on? Try competing virtually. Dressage is a popular option, with sites such as Dressage Anywhere, Dressage 4 All and InterDressage offering up plenty of test options, but you can also find showing and jumping competitions, too, like Little Bentley Eventing’s new series, Jump Training in Style. There’s nothing quite like a shiny new rozzie to brighten up your day, after all!
- Rewatch major competitions
One of the great things about the advent of livestreaming is that so many of the top international shows are preserved online in their entirety. Head to YouTube or FEI TV for an almost endless selection of competitions across the disciplines.
- Get crafty.
There’s truly no time like the present to unleash your inner artist. Started stashing rosettes in boxes? Trawl through Pinterest for tutorials on turning them into cushion covers, clever collages, and even lamp bases. Want to spruce up your stables? Create custom name plaques for each of your equine residents.
- Set yourself a challenge.
Get specific. Maybe there’s a dressage test you’d love to try to conquer that you have no plans to ever tackle in a show (this journalist, for her part, is working hard on CCI4* test B, because, you know, why not?). Maybe you’re determined to learn how to produce plaits like the masterpieces you see on Instagram. Maybe you want to give flying changes a go. Whatever you settle on, indulge in it. There’s no pressure, no looming show date, no expectation upon you – just time, a worthy goal, and tonnes of tutorials and primers online or in our pages to help you get started.
- Plan a horsey getaway.
A little bit of escapism never hurt anyone. Start a piggy bank and wave goodbye to reality for a blissful hour or two of browsing riding holiday catalogues or eyeing up luxury hotel packages near major events. With all the money you’re saving on entry fees, you might as well plan something nice for when this is all over!
- Enjoy virtual meet-ups.
As much as we all joke that we like our horses more than we like people, there’s no denying that riding and competing offer up a brilliant social circle, and we’re all missing our equally mad riding pals right now. But you can still find this camaraderie and communal spirit – it’s just moved online. There are loads of horsey groups on social media, including our own training series group on Facebook – here, you’ll be able to chat to likeminded people and benefit from working through set riding exercises together, too, with the help of riders like Chris Burton and Mary King.
Maybe we’ll all stay home from work forever, actually…