Over the last six years of my life, I have been working with horses. Not for money, just for the fun of it. And what fun it was. In driving rain and freezing cold, knee-deep in mud or covered in sand and dust… I have probably spent two thirds of my waking time with horses.
Many of these horses have been described by people – often including their owners and trainers – as being hard cases, crazy, nervous, stubborn, bloody-minded, unsteady, even hopeless cases. I described them – sounding, in my own ears, much like Hagrid – as being sweat-hearted, calm, noble-minded, talented and easy-going little things. And I meant every word of it. Deep in their hearts, these monsters were. They had been sometimes hard hit by life, often inexperienced, mostly scared and/or mistreated by humans, who were not abusive, but simply well-meaning.
The hard truth of it, working with horses is a risky business. Over these years, I had stitches in a few places in my head, a few concussions, a couple of broken helmets – lucky I had those helmets! And a few other minor accidents and scratches too trifling to remember. Like this time last summer when a young and unmannered – but well-meaning, sweat-hearted and talented – young guy dragged me along an unplastered wall of foam blocks. I did not let go. I ended up with my right arm dripping with blood from the elbow to the wrist – and I still have those scars – but this guy learned his lesson. And we became best friends.
Or this innocent-looking guy in the picture, Lioni. He cost me a helmet during our third or fourth training. And quite a few bruises all over my body, as he tried to kick his fallen rider for dear life. I am wearing gloves in this picture, something I don’t really like doing when working with horses, but this four-year-old gelding would jump at the slightest disturbance and try to run as if chased by a pack of tigers. Not only had he burnt my fingers badly quite a few times, but he had also dragged me over stones more than once. There were quite a few accidents later on in our life, before he settled down to be a steady, serene horse owned by a young amateur rider. Actually, his owner gave him as present to her grand-daughter, because he was not only talented, but also reliable!
Now, we live in the times of Corona, and we are taught to be afraid. To be afraid of something you can’t see, can’t hear and can’t smell. But also to be afraid and distrustful of your friends, neighbours and relatives, who may be unwitting bearers of the virus… To see any stranger without a mask as a threat and a personal enemy, who is plotting against you.
Since last spring, I have lost count of emails that ended with “stay safe” instead of “good bye”. Safe is the keyword. Repeat it to someone who works with hooved creatures with a mind of their won and weighing half a ton or more, who can land you in intensive therapy any day. Yes, we learn to read horses. But we also make mistakes.
The risk is always there, even with the safest horse you have known for a decade or more. But… you learn to live with this fear, which motivates you to be more attentive to your equine partner and friend.
Now, what about Covid? I don’t mean it’s not real. It is. If I catch one, I have good chances ending up in intensive therapy, and I know that, because of chronic health problems, I am in the risk group. But I also know that fear kills. It kills with more certainty than the hooves of a scared horse. And I refuse to live with fear. I refuse to “stay safe” when it comes to things that are important for me. Bugger shopping and hairdressers, about which I never cared even in Covid-free times, but give me friendship and the possibility to meet people I want to meet. To meet them for real, not on screen. To shake hands, to exchange jokes over beer, to laugh and to brag. And I don’t care if anyone one of them is asymptomatic.
Do you want to live a life? If you do, like this blog and share it with your friends. And feel free to do what you feel is important for you. I don’t say “throw a party” if you are not a party animal, but don’t be afraid of having one if you feel you and your friend need it. Go to that dratted hairdresser if you need one. Go to a training if that’s what makes you feel alive. Don’t hole up! No one has ever saved the world by hiding as a snail in one’s little “safe” house.
If you don’t want to live, but want to “stay safe” – as if “safety” ever existed – forget about what I wrote. Forget about riding horses. Forget about flying in airplanes or driving cars. Stay safe. Hole up… And… forget about ever living and dreaming.