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Riding horses through a pandemic

Blog and photo by Corrie McCroskey

As an out-of-state student at UK whose home is a 15-hour drive away, the pandemic has forced me into making quick decisions. I decided to stay in Lexington for the rest of the semester and the summer for one main reason: my horse Cece.

Corrie McCroskey's horse Cece

I had already decided to stay in Lexington for the summer, but I was left grasping for a new plan when the semester was cut short. Living plans that I had made ultimately fell through because of virus-related emotions and the job I had secured in February was rescinded, at least for the time being.

So, I basically had nowhere to live, and no job to support myself, but I knew I had to stay. Bringing any sort of animal with you into the college world carries responsibility and obligation.

For Cece, I knew that staying in Lexington would be the best option and would also save money by not transporting her back home.

She currently enjoys a 25-acre pasture with a couple of her best girlfriends and is beginning to enjoy the bluegrass as the spring brings back life into nature again.

Cece is my (just turned) 11-year-old off-the-track-thoroughbred mare, who I compete in Eventing.

She is an active, intelligent, and extremely athletic animal who thrives on routine and snuggles.

I transferred to UK in the fall of 2019 and brought Cece with me. We joined the UK Eventing Team and settled into life in Kentucky.

Neither of us had ever lived here before, so we had to make several adjustments, including new feed, a new farrier, new dentist, and, believe it or not, a new massage therapist.

Owning Cece means that every single day I wake up and have a purpose. Some people may see it as big and some may see it as small, but having to care and ride for my horse truly keeps me sane and is a huge stress reliever even on a typical non-pandemic school day.

Horses have long been a part of my fitness and mental routine since I began riding when I was six. Most importantly, even during a stressful time like the one we are living in now, horses are still the one thing I count on every day.

I feel so grateful to be able to live the life that I do and do the sport that I love, and I have never felt so grateful as I do now.

Many barns across the country have already been shut down, which means those people can’t ride or even go out to see their horses until an undetermined date.

I board at Carriage Station Farm and train with Cathy Wieschhoff, and we have been lucky enough to be able to carry on business as usual as long as we adhere to quarantine guidelines.

Each day there is a sign-up sheet posted in our Facebook barn group, and we sign up for two-hour timeslots.

When we are at the barn, we must tack up in our stalls away from others and maintain a six-feet-apart distance, which includes when we are on horseback.

Only one person is allowed in the tack-room at any given time and no one is allowed in the office.

Though it certainly feels a little odd to not be able to really interact with my friends and any others at the barn, it is certainly worth it just to be able to ride.

Many of my friends who are out-of-state packed up and left within the first week or two of the semester being canceled. The tack room is the emptiest I have ever seen it.

Personally, I try to think positive thoughts every day and get regular exercise, whether it is riding or running or doing a workout in my room. I have even gotten really focused on learning to play the guitar.

Perhaps the pandemic is giving us gifts that we don’t even realize in the moment. Mostly I think it is incredibly valuable to feel grateful for the constants in your life.

Whether it be a friend, hobby, sport, or religion, understanding that no matter how the world changes there will always be something in your life that you can gain strength and courage from is an invaluable lesson.


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