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Poetry Month Blog Hop

I’m sick of reading about this disease and of worrying about my work and of missing my horse, so let’s do a blog hop.

April is National Poetry Month. Post a poem about a horse (or a barn, or a dog, or just one that brings you joy).

Here’s my perpetual favorite.

The Runaway

by Robert Frost
Once when the snow of the year was beginning to fall,
We stopped by a mountain pasture to say, ‘Whose colt?’
A little Morgan had one forefoot on the wall,
The other curled at his breast. He dipped his head
And snorted at us. And then he had to bolt.
We heard the miniature thunder where he fled,
And we saw him, or thought we saw him, dim and grey,
Like a shadow against the curtain of falling flakes.
‘I think the little fellow’s afraid of the snow.
He isn’t winter-broken. It isn’t play
With the little fellow at all. He’s running away.
I doubt if even his mother could tell him, “Sakes,
It’s only weather.” He’d think she didn’t know!
Where is his mother? He can’t be out alone.’
And now he comes again with a clatter of stone
And mounts the wall again with whited eyes
And all his tail that isn’t hair up straight.
He shudders his coat as if to throw off flies.
‘Whoever it is that leaves him out so late,
When other creatures have gone to stall and bin,
Ought to be told to come and take him in.’
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Future boarding questions

There’s a meme going around the internet about future interview questions for employers.

I can’t find it now, but basically: it posits that you should ask all future potential employers what their response to the pandemic was.

Did they ignore it, try to get classified as essential even though they weren’t, use it as an excuse to treat employees shabbily and/or yank pay? (Like this story of the employer who plans to cut employee pay because of the upcoming stimulus checks.)

Or did they close preemptively, communicate with employees, and do the right thing maybe even before it was required?

I always knew I loved my job, but I admit, I got pretty emotional during our last staff gathering (two weeks ago today) when our director said firmly we were closing indefinitely, staff would work from home, and take any sick time we needed, even if it meant we went negative. In the weeks since, we’ve all stayed connected, and he’s done a great job energizing us around totally new work patterns and programs.

So, in that vein:

Will you be asking future boarding barns what their response was?

Will their answer matter to you? If so, how?

As much as it hurts not to see Tristan right now, I’m proud of how hard my barn worked to keep up with changing circumstances, and I’m proud that they made the decision to close even when they probably could have wiggled through an outside exercise/agricultural exemption. I’ve gotten a couple of texts from the barn manager already, and they’re planning on giving all the horses extra grooming and attention while owners are away.

When I moved back to Vermont almost 8 years ago, I looked at a couple of good barns, and chose this one because of how impressed I was with their thorough, meticulous, and attentive care – and I have never had a reason to regret that choice. I’d like to think any future barns (though god willing I will never move again) would do the same.

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And that is that

I wrote and published this two days ago:

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.

Three things have happened since then.

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My husband, who works in healthcare admin, was told he would start going into clinics for direct support.

The governor of Vermont has issued a mandatory stay-at-home order starting at 5:00 pm tonight.

The barn is closing to all but staff at that same time.

I had already agonized over and made the tough decision not to go to the barn once my husband started going to clinics. No matter how carefully I isolate, contact with him exposes me. He headed out to start that this morning.

The governor’s decision, and then the barn’s decision, were just the icing on the cake. Last night, I lingered a bit, sitting on Tristan alone in the middle of the empty ring and just breathing. I rarely do that; people using horses as furniture is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. But I just wanted to stay in the saddle for a few more minutes.

Today, I will make one last stop by the barn and then my office, to collect the last necessary things. Then that’s it.

Like many others, I’m bitterly disappointed, terrified, and want badly to just sleep through this whole thing and wake up this summer to warmer weather, happier people, and for everything to have worked out.

One year ago today, my dad, after suffering from an unexplained fever for about five days, collapsed and was taken to the hospital. He never left. It feels like a particularly cruel joke to have so many things closing off on the anniversary of that day.

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Barn Visits with COVID-19

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.

The Routine

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Fuck this week (month) (year)

I don’t think I need to say why.

I’m doing a little better now than I was earlier in the week. Early this week, it felt like a series of lasts. Last CrossFit class. Last PT appointment. Over the weekend, a last visit to family.

Then, Tuesday morning, as I was leaving the therapy appointment in which we discussed that March 17 the year before was the last day I spent with my father when he was healthy – I got a call from the barn. Because I’d been out of state over the weekend (that 24 hour visit to family), they asked me to stay away for a minimum of five days.

I get it. It’s fair. It’s safe. But I spent a very, very bad 48 hours, because I had just told my therapist that the barn was going to be my refuge, because I was always there when it was empty. So now I got to stew for 48 hours in my memories of my dad in an ICU on a ventilator when that’s all the news was talking about, transitioning to being stuck in my house, and not seeing my horse. Even when I am at my most stable and happy, being kept from Tristan is really hard. This week has been worse.

It’s Friday now, and I am doing better, slowly. Yesterday, I did my last work-related thing not at home (a livestreamed talk during which we all sat at separate tables in a large room) and Wednesday picked up gym equipment from my CrossFit box and set up a home gym and did my first WOD at home. I successfully tested grocery store delivery and curbside pickup from a few downtown bakeries and cleaned up my craft room to get some projects ready for when I feel ready for them.

Tonight, I’m hoping to go to the barn and move all my tack and grooming supplies to my car. That will eliminate all but one point of shared contact – his stall door – and I can wear gloves for that. I’ll talk to the barn manager this afternoon to clear it, and I won’t be there around other people until the 14 days is over. I’ve been temping myself twice a day (and have learned that my average is more like 97, wtf?) because I need this to work.

Anyway. Fingers crossed, everyone.

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House Post: Continuing Bathroom

Tile is gone! Good thing we pulled it too (I was briefly considering just adding a cheap plastic backing to get us up to the ceiling) because it was GLUED TO THE DRYWALL.

sigh.

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Anyway, it’s gone now, and today if I get off my ass I will be stripping the last of the wallpaper, washing the walls, and starting the skimcoat.

The plan for the area around the shower, then, is to mortar in a waterproof membrane as a new backer for the new tile. You know, waterproof. Like things around showers should be. FFS.