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Coronavirus is creating a huge amount of stress, anxiety, and worry for so many people, for so many reasons. It’s difficult to remain positive in times like these, when it feels like we’re living in a Hollywood horror film. 
 
Recently I spent a day doing something I’ve never done before, learning new skills, challenging my fears, and doing physical work. I didn’t think about Coronavirus once, and as an added bonus, I smiled all day. 

This is what I did…. 

I have never looked after horses or donkeys and have only ridden a handful of times in my life, most of those in the past 18 months. I’m somewhat scared of horses, to be honest. I like the thought of getting on one and riding around the countryside; it looks like a great way to spend some free time. 
 
However, when it comes to the reality of sitting on a horse’s back, I am suddenly acutely aware of how high up it is, of how much it might hurt if I fall or get thrown off, of how little I actually know about how to ride a horse and give it instructions. The extent of my knowledge is little more than ‘hold on and hope’, although I do know how to do a rising trot. 
 
(I am also been the person who recently found themselves hanging upside-down from around a horse’s neck when an emergency dismount went wrong, but that’s a story for another time!). 
 
I plan to learn more… I have a course of lessons banked at a riding school, but I keep putting it off, finding other things to do with my time, partly because I’m a busy person, but also partly because it scares me. 
 
There’s an equine rescue centre just down the road from my house. There are around 80 animals there who can’t feed themselves, nor muck themselves out. During lockdown I couldn’t treat clients. I don’t have another job, so I have a lot of time on my hands. I hate doing housework, so instead of cleaning the kitchen floor, I spent my day at the rescue centre, as one of a team of three (who all practised social distancing, of course) caring for the horses and donkeys there. Almost every single thing I did there was completely new to me… and I loved it! I learned: 
 
How to make up a hay net (I made up a vast quantity of these) 
That making up hay nets makes me sneeze! 
That horses who have had colic surgery are fed fresh grass as part of their recovery 
That picking numerous buckets full of fresh grass is really quite tedious work! 
How to muck out a stable 
How to poo pick 
That horses poo A LOT! 
How to feed horses and donkeys 
That horses’ lives revolve around food. They love eating and want to do it constantly! 
How to distract horses (use food!) so that you can give a single horse its medications without the others trying to eat it 
The difference between hay, haylage, and straw 
What laminitis and sarcoids are 
That Shetland ponies may be the same size as my dog, but they are far, far less obedient! 
How to clean a water trough 
How to groom a horse 
How not to get kicked when you’re grooming a horse’s tail – very important! 
How to read a horse’s body language 
That donkeys are very cuddly and attention seeking by nature 
That I really love donkeys J 
That yard staff work incredibly hard! 
 
I was on the yard from 7.30am until 4pm and it was a constant cycle of poo picking, making up hay nets, feeding, sweeping, grooming, poo picking, making up hay nets, feeding, sweeping, and so on, with intervals of water trough cleaning, ear scratching, picking grass, soaking feed, washing buckets, and mucking out stables. 
 
I spent the whole day outdoors with a big smile on my face. This is an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had if Coronavirus hadn’t struck us. So, I am thankful for the new experiences that this pandemic has given me. I am in awe of how hard equine owners and carers work. 
 
And now I need a massage! 
 
Sports massage therapist, Fire and Earth Leamington Spa 
Taekwon-Do martial arts instructor 
4th Dan blackbelt 
And novice yard hand! 
Tagged as: sports massage
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