As our regular followers know, here at HorseBack we are devoted to searching for silver linings. Every cloud has one. You could say that we have trained ourselves to do this: it’s a valuable mental habit that we have learnt over the years. It’s proved absolutely vital in our work with wounded veterans, both in how we design the courses for them and how we interact with them as individuals.
It’s also a profoundly useful attitude to take with our horses. You will have seen, in the stories of the horses we’ve been posting over the last few weeks, that we have a few members of the herd who might not be considered suitable for conventional equine disciplines. Because we are always on the hunt for strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses, we’ve found them a place and a niche and a job that they can do, so that every one of them makes a meaningful contribution to our mission.
It’s the same with this pandemic. We have not waltzed through this testing time; all of us at HorseBack have struggled, one way or another. We’ve had our difficult days, and our worries, and our doubts, as everyone has. But as we are always on the lookout for possibilities and hope and glimmers of light, we have been able to dig up some gleaming positives from the often negative overall atmosphere.
One of these is the need for change. It would be very easy to moan and groan about how we are going to have to adapt to the new Covid world, but we’ve decided to see these necessary changes as opportunities rather than burdens. We’ve had to use our imaginations and come at things from slightly oblique angles. All of the team are bringing their different areas of expertise to the table, united in a common desire to make things work.
And because we are going to have to do things a little differently, it’s made us look hard at all our usual and regular practices, which is no bad thing. Instead of seeing this as a disruption, we’ve decided to embrace it as a chance to shake things up, to make sure we are not set in our ways, to check our working.
A perfect example of this is our inability to run residential courses as we normally would. Even when the lockdown rules ease again, as we suspect they will, we still won’t be able to operate quite in the way we did before. This means that we’re having to look into reaching out to more local groups in need, people in our community who might have been affected by the virus – most especially key workers and children.
We’ve already established a terrific bond with the young people in our community through our Youth Development Courses, but we now want to expand and deepen this. We’ve got the experience and the skills and the set-up, and we’d love to use all that to reach more children.
We’ve been getting quite a few anecdotal reports that many kids have been more seriously affected by the lockdown than one might have expected. They are really missing the structure of the school week, and the company of their friends, and all the simple liberties that people of their age should be enjoying. Some have found home schooling very challenging. And the uncertainties that have tested the grown-ups are truly testing the kids, as they don’t know what it going to happen about their exams, or about getting into college, or about how their school day is going to work if and when they do go back.
We’ve found that children, very much like our horses, crave certainty. They like consistency and reliability. On top of all the usual demands and complications of adolescence, they are now having to deal with a shifting world where nobody seems to know quite what is going to happen.
That’s an area where we think we can help, and it’s the kind of help we love to give. If we can do this locally, people can travel in for the day, and we don’t have to worry about the complications of trying to social distance in a residential setting. With our usual veterans’ courses, part of the healing process involves all the participants living together under one roof, cooking meals together and working as a team. Until Covid goes away, that is going to be almost impossible. So we have a choice – we admit defeat, or we adapt.
At HorseBack, we don’t really do defeat. We’ve seen too many people come back from situations that seemed hopeless to believe that human beings are beyond redemption. We’ve worked with too many horses who seemed to have no obvious place or purpose, and found them able to offer something of intense value if we just looked hard enough to find it. We know that what can feel impossible at first often becomes possible, with a little determination and ingenuity and a bit of bloody-minded refusal to give up.
We know that it is often darkest before dawn. But we believe, always, that the dawn will break, the light will come, the sun will rise, literally and metaphorically.
So, we have our new plans. They shift and change all the time, as we learn to be flexible in response to new circumstances. But they are there, and every time we talk about them and add to them and improve them, we feel a rising sense of hope. That is our silver lining. We hope that you, too, will be finding some of your own.