The good news: I can go back to the barn!
The bad news: As someone who more than once turned around on the way home to go back and check to make sure I had latched my horse’s stall door, this new era of isolation is DOUBLEPLUS anxiety-inducing.
The pragmatic news: I think I’ve worked out my system for going to the barn.
On Friday night, the first night I could go back, I went into the tack room and removed everything that I imagined needing except for his longeing equipment; that will stay at the barn for them to use. Right now, the trunk of my car (a Ford Escape) is my tack room.
My scheduled riding time is 6-8pm, when the barn is totally empty. On arrival to the barn, I open my trunk via the button in my car. It stays open the entire time I’m at the barn to minimize back and forth. I put my helmet on and swap my boots for my riding boots, and put on a pair of clean riding gloves. I was already a pro at carrying everything in one swoop, so I do it again: saddle, bridle, boots, grooming box.
I use my foot to open the back door, and put all of Tristan’s gear on the floor to the right of his stall door. I stack it for easy access. I do a quick mental inventory and then open his stall door. I do not close it again. When I remove his blanket, I put it to the left side of his stall door, and I take it off over his head so I have fewer buckles to touch.
I am doing relatively minimal grooming right now, because I don’t want wads of hair in his stall and I am not using the crossties. I tack up in his stall, something he was already very used to, so there’s that. I can also do it practically in the dark.
When we leave the stall, I turn on the lights to the indoor with my dressage whip, and then unlatch the door to the indoor (shared point of contact #2). Then we ride as normal. On leaving, I leave the indoor door open and the lights on for now, untack as normal, and give him a kiss and close the stall door. Where normally I’d open and close it a few more times, or use his stall guard, now once it’s closed, it’s closed.
I put my tack away, and toss my riding gloves into a bag with others. Then I put on a pair of latex gloves and take one Clorox wipe and go back into the barn one last time. I wipe down everything I touched: Tristan’s stall door latch, the indoor latch, and the light switches as I turn them off. On leaving, I close the back door with my foot again. I throw away the gloves and the wipe in a bag I keep in my car, and close the back gate again with the button. When I get home, my riding clothes go straight to the laundry (normally I’d re-wear a few times).
Ancillary things: the only time I allow myself to breathe through my mouth is when I am outside near my car and actively riding. The rest of the time I breathe carefully and shallowly through my nose as much as possible, save for talking to Tris a bit. I may add a mask to my routine to help my comfort level with this. (I have one well-used N95 mask that I kept at my woodworking bench; it is not suitable for donation and would not be effective in a true medical isolation, but should function somewhat for these purposes.)
I do not touch other horses. I do not touch other stalls. I do not touch any equipment at all. The last thing I do before I leave the house is to take my temperature and do a quick body awareness/systems check, at least partially to calm myself down. The first thing I do when I arrive home is to wash my hands thoroughly and change out of my riding clothes and get them to the laundry basket.
Other things I’m doing:
- I ordered a biothane halter & lead from Two Horse Tack. I’d been meaning to for a while – since back when Tristan was quarantined that summer he had that weird virus – but having something to keep in my car that I could easily disinfect in case at some point it makes more sense to tack up outside felt like a good idea.
- I’ve ordered extra of Tristan’s Prascend. He’s got some time yet before he runs out, but I’m in “better safe than sorry” mode. I will also check in with barn staff in a few days to see where he is on his other things (Vitamin E and electrolytes). Neither of those is as crucial as the Prascend. My goal is not to go into the feed room at all, for any reason.
- I am also scaling back my barn time. It’s hard, but now that I know I have the stress relief valve if I need it, making the choice to limit is easier. So I only go during my planned time (6-8 pm) and I’ll probably only do 4 days a week.
Like with everything in life and the world right now, I may change this in a week because things may be radically different in a week. I would be surprised if Vermont goes truly shelter-in-place; we’re already tiny and spread out. I live in the 7th largest city in the state and things are distinctly, noticeably quieter. Maybe I’ve been lucky not to see it or maybe the people around me really have been smarter, but I have hopes that I can continue to go to the barn.