I received an email last night that the boarding barn where I keep my horse was temporarily closing because of COVID-19. I completely support the barn owners’ decision because I believe the only way we’re going to get to the other side of this horrible pandemic is if everyone does his or her part to contain the spread of the virus.

But darn, it is hard to take. I feel as my lifeline to peace and sanity has been cut. As the restrictions from the coronavirus have increased during the last week, I’ve been trying so hard to hold everything together for myself, my 11-year-old daughter, my husband and my co-workers. But the barn-closure announcement pushed me over the edge just a bit. So I had myself a good cry. And I’ll probably have a few more.

Sandra Oliynyk with her horse, Merlot.

Sandra Oliynyk with her horse, Merlot.

My barn’s closure made me feel even more strongly to find ways in my job to help people get their horse-fix, especially if access to their horses has been limited. One idea we had was for the Practical Horseman staff to read favorite articles from past issues of the magazine in special editions of our podcast.

In addition to barn closures, some of us are working from home for the first time. Others are still physically going to work, but your schedule has vastly changed. And others of you may not be able to work at all, which must be extremely stressful, to say the very least.

Whatever your situation at home, work or the barn, PH’s Managing Editor Jocelyn Pierce and I hope that listening to some of our favorite PH articles will help just a little. For me, I know that thinking about anything to do with horses always makes me feel happy and more grounded.

In the first installment of this special podcast episode, I’m reading the article “Get ‘In the Zone’ for Better Jumping” by Shelley Campf. I chose this article because reading it brings me back to a time in my riding when my understanding of riding and jumping skyrocketed and my confidence soared. Shelley was my trainer on the East Coast many years ago. We’re still friends and I consider her to be one of my most influential riding instructors. I say that because when Shelley started teaching at the stable where I rode, I was at a pretty low point in my riding. I really thought that I was not a good rider, largely because I was convinced that I could not see a distance to a fence or at least not for an entire course of fences. To make matters worse, I felt like most everyone else could—that they were just naturally better than me. As a result, I worked really hard to see distances. I felt that the ability to measure my horse’s stride to the takeoff point played a huge role in getting him to jump.

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When Shelley arrived at the barn in the late fall, I took many, after-school lessons with her. During that time, she helped me realize that I didn’t have to work so hard to see a distance. In fact, the opposite was true—that I had to do less and I was not responsible for making my horse jump. Instead, I needed to allow him to jump.

Over the winter, Shelley taught me to stop interfering with my horse and let him to do his job. Her article is pretty much a road map of the lessons I learned from her. And I am proof that it works because the spring after that winter of lessons, my horse and I were champion in our hunter division at the Saratoga Horse Show. Even better, though, was that riding had become a lot more fun and a lot less stressful the more I learned to “do less.” That’s really why I’m so passionate about this story.

To fill you in on Shelley’s background, she was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, and rode with Claudia Cojocar, the mother of her husband, Jeff Campf. Shelley graduated from the University of Calgary with a degree in applied mathematics and she was going to be an engineer, but the connection with horses kept pulling her back. Eventually, she and Jeff opened a training facility, Oz Incorporated, just outside Portland, Oregon, where they both teach hunter, jumper and equitation riders of all levels. They also both ride and compete—Jeff in the jumpers and Shelley in the hunters. Shelley is also a founding member of the U.S. Hunter/Jumper Association and has been the chair of the USHJA Trainer Certification Program for several years.

Shelley Campf

Shelley Campf

A few more notes about this episode: In it, I read the entire article first, and then I read the captions. I debated how helpful this would be because obviously you can’t see the photos. But I think of the captions as sort of a wrap-up review of the article.

Also, you can read this complete article at PracticalHorsemanMag.com, and Shelley and I had a regular podcast conversation last year—it’s the eighth episode from the beginning of our podcast series. You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts including iTunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

Finally, in case you can’t tell, I’m a training geek and I love all things involving training horses. That said, I’m not sure how well reading a training story in particular will work. My hope is that you’ll 1) enjoy it and 2) pick up tips and pointers along the way. But if you get the chance, let us know if reading the articles is helpful and/or what types of articles you’d like at practicalhorseman@aimmedia.com

My barn is going to re-evaluate at the end of March what their next steps will be—maybe staggered times boarders can come out. In the meantime, though, my wish is for all of us to stay safe and healthy so that we can get back to our regularly scheduled lives and especially back to these animals who bring us so much love and comfort.

Listen to the full episode.

For more information on COVID-19, go to “Tips for Equine Businesses During COVID-19.”

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