So, here I sit, in my car, in the parking lot at the barn, as I wait for my daughter to finish her ride. It is about a 2-hour wait from arrival to departure, so I have lots of time to ponder my thoughts and/or play candy crush.
As I look back and reflect on this year I realize how much has changed. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, our lives with horses have been greatly affected and I am really feeling it. It is interesting, as I work through a few different roles in my life, how I feel the effects of this role in particular, and know that I am not the only one to feel this way.
As the mother of a teenager who rides, I no longer get to go into the barn to interact with her and her horse as they groom and tack up/untack. Time in the barn with my daughter and her horse was something I really enjoyed. It was time to bond with them and to get that horse/human connection for myself. It also allowed time to interact with the other boarders and riders, the coach, and their horses to feel connected to our barn community, to offer support and to feel supported.
All summer I have been able to watch as she rode outdoors, in lessons or just schooling. I enjoyed watching her ride, taking in the team of horse and rider working and learning together, taking videos of her and reviewing them with her later in the day. As the wetter weather and the winter approach, I won’t be able to watch her indoor lessons.
I like to think that my daughter, and her (our) horse miss my presence in the barn and as a spectator too, but that is for them to express at another time. Maybe they enjoy being less fettered and doted on so that their bond can strengthen more purely, without my interference.
These points of connection are lost for me due to COVID protocols and I feel a level of disconnection that I have not felt before. It is the new way of conducting ourselves responsibly and safely, but I feel the loss in the relationships with my daughter as a rider, her horse as our family member, and the other riders/boarders in the barn. Other than the odd parking lot wave, quick hello or short catch up, we don’t connect with each other much anymore in a meaningful way.
Parents of riders are relegated to parking lot conversations with other exiled parents, or sitting solo in the car on a cell phone, laptop or napping, or sometimes, driving off to run errands. I am not sure what we will do if these protocols continue as the weather gets much, much colder! Perhaps we will be sitting in our vehicles donning snowsuits and clutching thermoses of hot beverages, trying not to frost up the inside of the car!
I know that there are much more serious issues in the world than this and that a life with horses is considered a privileged one. We got our children into riding because of their passion for it and let’s face it, as parents we enjoy it too. We love seeing them so happy, developing a bond with a favourite horse, or their own horse, and learning skills no other sport can teach them. Being able to be a first hand witness to that is at risk of being on hold for now and the near future.
When these protocols gradually lift, I will be grateful to leave the parking lot and to be able to go into the barn again. I will take a deep breath and take in that familiar smell. I wonder if I will notice subtle changes in our barn community, my daughter and her horse, that have occurred over my time spent in the parking lot. Will I have changed too? I wonder….
WHO IS SAMANTHA KING?
At the height of her business, she had many horses and students competing in eventing and hunter/jumper on the schooling, Trillium and A Circuits. Aside from her own stables in Oakville and then Georgetown, Samantha has taught riding at Sunnybrook Stables (Toronto), The Riding Academy at the Horse Palace (Toronto), Southlands (in Vancouver), and Stonewood Riding Academy (Pickering). She continues to be involved with horses as the Mum of an 11-year-old rider who competes on the Trillium Circuit, judging a few schooling shows and loves to teach whenever she can!