Mixed Bag of Addressing COVID-19 Across America

“My COVID apprehension melted after having time in open space and having safe-distance time around people who nurture my healthy soul.” Barn closures vary from state to state and barn to barn. Here’s a brief look at what some barns are doing and how it affects riders.

Photo by Candace Wade

I decided to go to the training barn where I take lessons. (Gulp.) The Horse Nation Facebook posts on my piece on the conundrum of going to our boarding/lesson barns (during COVID-19) were strong as they were varied. I took them all into account before I made my appointment to go to the barn. I’ll share my experience, but first, let’s look at a sample of how barns around the U.S. are keeping their clients and staff safe.

Upstate New York – My friend reported that her barn is locked down. She cannot go see her horse Spot. She was told, “Don’t even come to the fence to see him.” The personnel are caring for Spot and have sent my friend a picture. My friend is beside herself, but keeping calm.

Scottsdale, AZ – The manager of a premier dressage barn told me that agriculture is considered an “essential activity” in her state. She follows a Public Health Protocol. Only boarders with trainers may visit. Horse owners must work with that trainer during a visit. Visits are scheduled for the same time/day each week. Everything is sanitized by barn personnel and the owners must bring their sanitizers and use them. The manager keeps her clients up to date through e-mail.

North Georgia – My dressage friend who rides through his Autism shared that his schooling/therapy barn is closed. He cannot go be with Lenape the one-eyed horse he “adopted.” He didn’t wish to share what missing his time with Lenape means to him.

Alex and Lenape. Photo by Candace Wade

Nashville, TN – I scheduled my appointment for late in the afternoon so I could do a “social distance” walk with my instructor after my lesson. No one had ridden Amber since I had been out. I felt a bit edgy when I saw a few cars that I didn’t expect. I waited at the tie-down fence away from the barn/tacking area because two young riders were still tacking their horses. They were a little too slow and chatty for my comfort. This is “me time,” so I chilled watching birds and admiring spring dogwoods.

Amber was brought up. I told the staff person of my discomfort and that I was happy away from the girls. All equipment is being brought out from the tack room during this time. I have brushes, saddle pad and girth that I carry with me. The staff member hurried the girls and sent them down to the separate arenas. I took my time with Ambs and felt my nerves float away. I was the last lesson so I didn’t have anyone waiting on me.

The dressage arena. Photo by Candace Wade

My instructor asked if I would like to take a trail ride with her in lieu of a lesson and walk. Perfect. Some of the people posting on FB expressed concern about creating a strain on ERs if riders fell and need care. Point well taken. I chose to keep my horse-time low key – not a time to push skill boundaries. The dressage arena was empty. I warmed up, practicing intentional turns and walk-to-trot-to-walk transitions. The trail ride was slow. Amber is a seasoned, Zen horse. Yes, stuff happens, but I could get creamed by a car on my way to fight for TP at the grocery.

My COVID apprehension melted after having time in open space and having safe-distance time around people who nurture my healthy soul. I won’t go as often as normal, but I will go again. I:

  • Will make sure lessons are not running late.
  • Brought my gear home so I could clean it and won’t have to go into the tack room.
  • Will leave if I feel uncomfortable.

Note: Even though my offer of full-rack fee money for a lesson was refused, I pushed it on my instructor and told her to spread it among the staff. They work to keep us and the horses safe. Now is a good time to tip.

The pond in springtime. Photo by Candace Wade

Editor’s note: Since the time of writing this article, the author’s barn has closed down completely.