Guest Column: Foal watch for sanity

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Up early (depending on my four-legged roommates’ internal alarm clocks that day), put the kettle on for tea, check the news and then get to work while dreaming of leaving the house. That’s the routine every day for the past month … now I know how Bill Murray felt in Groundhog Day.

When I started semi-isolation March 19, I figured it would be just like normal. I’ve worked from home full time for going on two years now, so really, how much different could it be? I’ve learned quickly that when you’re forced to stay at home instead of doing it willingly, it’s much different.

There’s no leaving for a “lunch break,” going to the gym and there’s definitely no day off to go to the movies like had become my weekly routine to get away from work and technology (Pro tip: Monday mornings and early afternoons you get the theater all to yourself almost every movie – even with new releases.)

There’s definitely no going out on the weekends or even having a group of friends over for dinner. To put it lightly, this is primetime for my brain to have something akin to a meltdown.

Thankfully, the next generation of racehorses is keeping meltdowns in check.

When I made the choice to foal watch back in November, I did it just because I missed working with mares and foals after a two-year hiatus. It just took one message to someone I had foal watched for in the past to secure myself a foal watch short shift (perfect for my schedule out of the barn) two nights a week.

Early in the season I will admit that some nights it was hard to leave the house for foal watch. I could still live my normal life, so it was harder to put on jeans and go out into the cold for a few hours in the dark. Especially when those I was working with were mares whose sole mission was to trick me.

In March that all changed with better weather, more foals in the barn and being stuck in the house when I wasn’t at foal watch.

I won’t lie, even a foal watch short shift isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and playing with foals. I’m fully convinced many of my gray hairs come from mares spending nights acting like they are going to give up their hostage then waiting a week to release them – or attempting to release them in the 10 minutes needed to leave the barn to check other parts of the farm. But if you’re a horse(wo)man, you also know that even in the stressful moments, there’s something magical about horses even in anxious moments.

Last week was a stressful one outside of the barn for many different reasons but when I arrived Tuesday, I could feel the stress melt away (as much as it can in these circumstances). Yes, it had been snowing throughout the day and yes, there were some grumpy mares. But just spending time with the horses and seeing the horses act like everything is normal added a bit of calmness to my current perspective of the world.

We’re all going through a hard time right now, it’s likely every single person reading this column has been affected by COVID-19 in some way.

There is light at the end of the tunnel and, just like the horses, we’re best to find at least some of the positives (For them, getting some extra hay. For us, spending extra time with our families) instead of focusing solely on what the future holds.

I often use the quote “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man” as a motto of sorts even in good times. But it’s safe to say that motto has never rang truer than in a period where horses have not only been my escape but also the sanity saver I never even knew I needed.