THIS ( LOCKED DOWN) LIFE STEPHANIE HICKS
THERE they are at the gate, waiting for dinner. Molasses, at 25, is still boss horse despite his age and puts his ears flat back to show Glacier that he gets first carrot.
Claire has decided to ride bareback today. At least there’s room to ride in the paddock, so we are luckier than many. Although the land is sold and we will not have it much longer, hopefully we’ll have it until the lockdown is over.
But two months of doing nothing but riding in the same paddock is wearing. We know we are lucky, but it’s not the same. We have tried all sorts of things. There’s flat work, of course, which Glacier dislikes. He likes to run and keep on running, preferably with lots of jumps thrown in for good measure.
Then there is bareback ( excellent for the rider). It’s nice to see him ridden without the saddle; you can see what a lovely, solid boy he is. Still, he’s not as fit as he was.
Sometimes we play mother- horse polocrosse. The rules vary. Sometimes Claire has to catch the ball when I throw it or bounce it. Sometimes I run with the ball and they have to try to get it off me. And sometimes Claire just practises throwing it through a goal made up of a couple of bits of concrete.
When the whole horse flu thing started, I set up a mini cross- country course for them in the paddock with whatever was lying around, but the grass is so overgrown it’s hard to see where the jumps are, and so they have given that up.
Today, quite a short ride, as it’s bareback. We play for 40 minutes or so until I have done enough running around after balls, then we take both horses up for dinner.
The next ride will be the same, and the one after that. No one can train these days, no one can go down to pony club, no one can go for a ride with their friends, there are no lessons, no musters, no competitions, no combined training, no hunter trials, no dressage tests. And not just our club, but every one for kilometres around.
All because a racehorse brought horse flu into Australia. The government had no idea what it was up against when it started. The containment was nowhere near fast or strict enough. Although it has slowed now, for a while the number of infected properties increased at a rate of more than 100 a week in southeast Queensland alone.
So the long misery continues. People who don’t have horses ask me why we are in lockdown. Does it kill the horses, they ask. It’s flu, we say. They get sick, but they get better. It may kill foals or old horses but basically it doesn’t kill the others.
The lockdown is crazy, they say. It surely is. Thousands of horses and their young riders are suffering because of it. Thousands of coaches, farriers, vets, horse- shop owners, saddlers and all the other folk who live with and around horses are suffering. In the papers and on television, there is nothing about all of this, but each new infected property simply delays the day when life for horse owners can return to normal.
Glacier and Molasses have their dinner now and seem happy, but Glace often looks at us as if to say, Why aren’t we going anywhere? It’s so boring in here!’’ It is, mate, it is. For you and for thousands of other horses.
thislife@ theaustralian. com. au