Only a few weeks ago, we at HorseBack were celebrating ten years of the charity and getting excited about our plans for the next ten years. We were so full of ideas and so galvanised about the future. And now, as if in a heartbeat, everything has changed.
Every single small charity and small enterprise will know this feeling. The coronavirus is touching so many lives in so many unexpected ways. We know we are not alone.
And that feeling was the one we decided to focus on. We are not alone. Community has always been a watchword for HorseBack and we rely on it now more than ever. If the old plans had to be ripped up, the new ones would focus on our local community, in every imaginative way we could come up with. The slight irony is that it is in a time of self-isolation that people truly realise how much they need and cherish and appreciate each other.
We’re already doing this in small ways. Our Course Director Jason Hare and Fundraising Manager Ian Wren are involved in groups dedicated to making sure that the vulnerable and elderly are looked after. This will involve everything from delivering food and collecting prescriptions to picking up the telephone and popping a postcard through the door.
We also want to work on ways to help our local children, if they should be off school for a long time. We’re particularly conscious that those of them who were coming up to exams are devastated that all their hard work seems to have gone for nothing. And we know that parents are going to need a break. So we are germinating ideas as fast as we can.
It’s incredibly important at times like this to hunt for silver linings. We were very sad to have to cancel our courses for the foreseeable future, but as we moved into new, innovative planning, we realised that we are so lucky to be able to do this. If you are a small operation, you are nimble. We can respond quickly and comprehensively to changing circumstances. We can put our resources where they will do the most good. We don’t have to have endless meetings or consult a hundred line managers. We take the decisions and the ship changes course.
As well as being concerned for our local community, we are keenly aware that our wider veteran community are going to be vulnerable at time like this. This is not a great moment to have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even normally sanguine people are finding themselves anxious and stressed, so imagine what it must be like if your anxiety levels are already through the roof. We are working on strategies so we can still help the people we help while these necessary restrictions are still in place. The funny thing is that even though so much of what we were supposed to be doing now has been cancelled, we are working harder than ever.
We send out our thoughts to you, our kind supporters and friends. We think of you and we hope you stay safe. This virus is a serious business, and every day we try to walk the fine line between taking it as seriously as we must and not letting ourselves get sucked into negativity and worry. We don’t want to be blithe Pollyannas, but we refuse to be doom mongers either. You will see that reflected in our Facebook posts as this situation unfolds. There will be some sombre notes, but there will be laughter and silliness too, because keeping up morale is something we feel strongly about.
The thing that gives us hope is observing how people are already pulling together. You may see shocking pictures of panic buying on your screens, but up and down this valley there are remarkable humans doing remarkable things. We hear stories every day of kindness and selflessness. The village is carrying on with determination and good humour. It’s just that now, when we stop to talk to someone, we stand six feet away. The distance is a physical thing only; we have never felt such a sense of sympathy and connection running through the place.
We’d also like to pay tribute to the remarkable women and men of the National Health Service. The NHS has either patched up or pretty damn near saved the life of everyone on the HorseBack team. (If you work with horses or were once in the military or, like our own Jay Hare, get blown up a few times, you are going to know and love those doctors and nurses as if they were your brothers and sisters. Which is how we think of them.) The work they are doing is beyond price, and every day we thank them from our hearts. And finally, the greatest reminder that the show must go on are the horses. They know nothing of statistics or graphs or headline. All they know is that the spring grass is coming through and they are enjoying the sun on their backs. They also know that they can rely on us humans to care for them and keep them fit and happy. So we have to go out every morning with a smile on our faces, if only for their sake. We hope that you too, wherever you are, can find a reason to smile.