Last week, while I was working with my mules, Wall Street plummeted into a bear market, colleges across the nation sent their students home, and my beloved annual rendezvous with the Back Country Horsemen of Washington went offline, delayed for a year.
At the same time, thousands of new COVID-19 cases were confirmed, and a lot of people died. All this happened while I was working with Coco on backing and turning on her haunches.
Coming to terms with the chaos that we’re suddenly living with is more than distressing, it’s deeply frightening. But those few hours outside with the critters built up my immunity—not to the virus but to the stresses of this time in history. For those few hours outside, I was breathing clean air and synthesizing all the vitamin D that the sun over Washington had to offer.
I don’t want to sound shallow in the face of a deadly pandemic. We all need to drastically alter our lives to slow the spread of this virus so as not to overwhelm our health care system. But even as we distance ourselves from society, we can take respite in the fact that the natural world—no matter how you define it—offers refuge from a disease that is nurtured in the close confines of civilization.
If you’re healthy and don’t live in a densely populated area, practice social distancing and wash your hands, and find safe ways to get outside. Hang out in the barn, work in the round pen, groom the shedding beasts, and rejoice in being outside. Tack up and go for a ride. The trails are still open for business. Just stay six feet away from others, as you should anywhere else. You’re not likely to see too many people out there. Trail riding seems to be the optimal activity for a time when everyone is encouraged to avoid crowded enclosed spaces whenever possible.
A little time spent outdoors, with our critters can certainly relieve some of the stress brought on by this crisis.
This tactic may change as the virus spreads or as we learn more about it. But in the meantime, as my mother would tell my brothers and I pretty much every day of our childhood: “Go outside.”