I ran across an interesting phrase just this morning: “last days of the old ways,” from a GQ list of the best restaurants of 2020. Talk about a time capsule (so worth reading for perspective if nothing else — like, remember how affected dining out had become?). But it struck me because we are never going back to the world as it was before COVID-19. “The old ways” will be tinged with new adaptations of existing in public spaces, hopefully with a good dose of charity and kindness. Adaptation that I personally have no problem with, honestly, mysophobe and agoraphobe that I am. Eating out is fun and everything, but I am just as happy staying in.
As horse people, while many of us have had to change routines, or suspend them entirely, we -most of us- will get to come back to horses. Barns in my area have had varying degrees of openness or closedness, and I have been lucky enough to continue my daily treks to where I board Eli to ride, or just let him graze, or groom him until he rolls his eyes at me. We passed the ownership milestone of May 1, the day I bought him in 2014, with little notice from him, as Eli is most definitely the one who owns me, and that started before May 1, 2014 for sure.
The horse world at large is looking at attempting to get back to showing. What changes will we see? Hand sanitizer at all the in-gates? Limited or no concessions? Ticketed schooling at EVERY show, not just the big A shows? Will we even have to answer these questions? The idea of certainty is a tenuous one in this post-old ways-existence. I am not about to craft an editorial on how or why we can live alongside a newfound pathogen and still keep capitalism, leisure time, and the service industries alive.
Rather I’ll just give y’all an Eli update: he is out of pads in front, he got his bone juice, and he has energy to burn. He feels pretty good under saddle, but he is out of shape. As am I. So we are not doing a whole lot yet, just building on the ride before and looking forward to doing a little more the next ride. I trotted him over a crossrail a few times the other day and there was much excitement in the first few steps after the fence in the form of tiny little dolphin leaps and head tossing. Seems like classic Eli to me!
Getting the trot squared away is relatively easy for me. I am a less coordinated rider at the canter, and that’s the gait of Eli’s that needs the most work. Due to his veterinary history, I am not going to attempt to accomplish this on a longe line, so getting it done under saddle will be a slooooooowwww process. The formula: A few decent steps? Reward with a walk. Add more decent steps next time. Next time could be 2 minutes later or the next day, it doesn’t really matter. The rewarding is the important part, as Eli is very sensitive and responsive to that kind of thing.
So that’s where we are, “we” being me and Eli. It has been such a protracted process, bring him back into work after his suspensory injury. It’s been about a year since he did that, and I think we are now on the right path with that and his front feet, too. For the time being, the main goal is to get Eli back into shape, to a reasonable level of fitness for a low-level, local show horse. If we can get there, then I’ll consider doing more, but it’s also okay with me if we never get there. Horses are perhaps the best teachers of adaptation, moreso than even a viral pandemic. At least, for some things. Horses teach you what you can control, and what you can’t, and what you have to let go. (Pride … the inside rein …)
In a completely unrelated, frivolous aside, this Chardonnay is really good:
Oh, lors, speaking of the old ways. I had gone to the grocery store to pick up a few things, including some beer. There are always very helpful, dutifully face-masked employees in the wine and beer section at HEB, and as I trundled down the refrigerated aisle of beer, an employee asked me if I needed any help finding something. I said, yes, I am looking for the Guinness four pack of cans with the nitro ball … ? The guy said, yes, right down here, in the import section which is sadly smaller than it used to be … and he handed me the four pack and left me wondering if there were any good domestic nitro ball options. Nothing like a slow burn apocalypse to make me question my casual consumerism. Vive la nouvelle façon, I guess?
I have no real excuse for completely missing out on posting anything last week. But don’t fret, Eli and Conrad are doing fine! Last week was just weird all around with unseasonably cold and wet weather and oh yeah, the whole pandemic thing is really altering our collective reality, huh? I never thought I would be so invested in making fashionable face-coverings decisions. Anyway. Eli got his vaccinations and some bone juice, and it is FINALLY warm enough to satisfy his delicate constitution.
I had a very enjoyable ride on him on Sunday. I don’t usually ride on Mondays, but I think I will today because it’s warm and rain is in the forecast again starting on Wednesday.
State and local governments here are considering a gradual return to business as usual. I am not sure how I feel about that. Although my own lifestyle has not changed much, I do recognize there are people out there who really would like to get back to work and I can’t blame them. I have been so very lucky to have access to my horse. I know not everyone has that luxury right now (on top of the luxury of paying for a horse) and I am not sure how well I would be doing mentally if I couldn’t get in some daily pony time.
I wouldn’t necessarily need the saddle time, just interaction with Eli usually brightens my mood. Even if he is being a grump. That’s like half his charm! Riding is my only exercise, though, so getting in the saddle is a benefit. And even if all we are doing is walking and trotting and strolling around in the wildflowers, I still like to wear bright colors to improve my mood. I do miss having my black DeNiros in the rotation because a snap need replacing. As far as I know, the shoe repair shops around here are still open, but I have been hesitant to go to even the essential businesses. Again, I am lucky to have such a choice.
I did something over the weekend that had more of a benefit that I thought it would — I avoided national news. That significantly improved my outlook, even if only temporarily! I suggest everyone try it, if possible, even if only for a day or two.
Okay, so, Eli’s birthday is on April 6. Makes this post a little late, but what is Time-the-Illusory-Construct in these days of WFH, grocery delivery, and endless streaming of morally questionable content?
He earned a thorough grooming earlier this week:
He is not a fan of shedding blades, but I had no choice.
Sooooo innocent-looking …
I did spend almost an hour grooming him. Shedding blade, soft curry, “stiff” (still not that stiff for Mr. Sensitive) brush, soft brush … hoof pick & brush, tail goop, tail brush … He still wasn’t completely clean but I did discover that is coat is, in fact, still bay, and even a bit dapple-y.
He knows which direction the treats come from … he’s literally staring at my tack trunk. I think I probably slapped some hoof goop on him, too, just after this.
So for his birthday, Eli got cleaned up a little and lots of cookies. He is SEVENTEEN going on toddler.
Conrad struggles with spring, just like anyone else allergic to tree pollens and hypersensitive to bug bites. But at least it is warmer outside! (It got up to 95 here today, which is a bit much.)
Conrad had his grooming appointment today.
I know not everyone may agree with me, but I do consider these appointments as essential to Conrad’s overall health and well-being. The great thing about his groomer is that it’s one person in a mobile grooming salon, so it is a very controlled environment.
Additionally, his mobile groomer has developed protocols that eliminate human-to-human contact. Once the groomer arrived, I put Conrad in his soft crate on the front porch. Once his appointment was over, the groomer returned him to the soft crate for me to take him back in the house.
I paid via credit card over the phone as opposed to handing the groomer cash, which is what I usually do.
I really appreciate that Conrad’s groomer is still able to groom him, and that the company has been very thoughtful about how to keep this essential service safe for pets AND their humans.
Conrad is going to hate that soft crate after all this, though!
Nothing like a pandemic to make me thankful for what I have, and to show me just how much of my life falls into the privileged sphere. I am one of the lucky few whose routine has barely changed, and what has changed so far has been mostly for the better.
I still get to work! This alone is immense, as many millions of people will end up unemployed as a result of the pandemic, if they are not already. Just like some people may not survive COVID-19, I fear that many people may never recover economically from this crazy situation. But addressing the pandemic is much more important than addressing the economy in the immediate future, as difficult as that may be for many, many people.
Conrad gets a few more walks. I don’t think he minds. He’s not too happy at me about working from home and not paying more attention to him because I am at home. But my home office area has a couch he can nap on. He’ll figure it out eventually.
I am still able to go to the barn to see Eli. I know barn access varies from state to state right now and many people are relying on barn employees for all of their horses’ care. Lesson programs in my area have been suspended at many barns, but some barns are still allowing access to boarders.
So what am I scaling back? Driving — my commute either involves a drive in to work three days a week with little traffic, or a really short walk over to my desk at home. Running everyday errands — I am avoiding this if possible. I have a bracelet that needs fixing at a jeweler and a snap on a tall boot that needs replacing, for instance, that I’d take to a shoe repair place. But this kind of thing is on hold indefinitely. Riding Eli — Eli can be a bit spooky, as we all know. I am limiting his under saddle time to just a few rides a week when the weather permits it and keeping the rides at a walk or trot. I am going for low impact and minimizing risk. I do consider his exercise as essential pet care and it’s also my outdoor, socially-distanced exercise anyway, so I do not really feel like I am skirting any stay-at-home orders in my area with this. I understand that MANY people may disagree with my interpretation of the local stay-at-home orders. However, I am at the barn at times when few other boarders are there, and I am only touching Eli’s stuff, so I am minimizing risk in that way, too. Eating out — oh how I miss Mexican restaurants. I am not on a budget that allows constant take-out, as much as I would like to do that to support the restaurants around here that I like to go to. This does seem to have the benefit of cleaning up my waistline a bit, at least. Visiting friends — I don’t visit very many people, and now I am hardly seeing friends in person at all. I am not going to rule it out completely because when I do visit friends, it’s usually one person in a private residence and it’s to watch streaming stuff, drink wine, and catch up.
I find myself asking daily the question, “Is this really necessary?” A lot of the time, whatever it may be, it is not really necessary.
And here’s my last little editorial thought for the day: Even if inadvertently, COVID-19 is showing us a path to mitigating climate change. We are quite obviously capable of making many of these changes for the long-term, if there is even much of a long-term to look forward to.
That being said, I CANNOT WAIT for all the restaurants and bars to reopen! When that happens, maybe we could all consider tipping at 30%-50% for a month or so if we can swing it. I also want to go to ALL THE MUSEUMS and donate $$$ to their programs and collections. I miss having a Manhattan at Lamberts. I miss the Austin Opera. I miss meeting up with somebody for lunch downtown on a weekday. I MISS QUESO. But we could all stand to drive or fly a little less after all this craziness subsides, right?
As it turns out, I do not actually work from home every day. I do some “essential” things at my job (they actually really are) so I still go in 3 mornings a week to handle that stuff. Do you even understand how delightfully creepy ~1,000,000 sq ft of almost empty can be? I still see DPS officers, a few Preservation Board workers, and the vehicles of some super-high-ups’ staff are on the drive periodically, but that’s it. I LOVE IT. Can we keep the 6′ apart rule after all this wraps up? Not that it will ever wrap up — it’s a virus. We’ll have a vaccine eventually but it’s going to end up endemic like the flu viruses.
The working from home is the biggest difference all of this stay-at-home has made in my life. And I am not complaining. My new coworker has some strange habits, but he doesn’t talk so that is most definitely a plus.
Conrad knows nothing about the drastic changes to our lives over the past week.
He just goes about his regular routine. I have decided against scheduling a teeth cleaning for him in April. That can wait a few more months.