Writing this at the end of March, it’s hard to imagine what circumstances will be like for horse people when the May issue of the Northwest Horse Source is published. Today, concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic have caused many barns to limit activities and even prevent owners from visiting their horses. Washington’s Governor Inslee has banned all nonessential travel but, thankfully, supports daily outdoor exercise. Mixed messages and uncertainty abound. Social distancing has been extended to all Americans until at least the end of April, and virtually all organized horse activities have been canceled until May or beyond.
My mind is consumed with thoughts about how to keep myself and others safe while reaching out to those in far worse circumstances than I am, and how the Washington State Horse Park can best serve the horse community. Since that is all I can think about, that is what I’ll write about, and hopefully this will be therapeutic at the same time.
I thought 70 years old was the new 40 until this virus outbreak. Now anyone 60 and over is “elderly” with special early morning shopping hours for the “vulnerable”. People out and about with grey hair are looked at like they’re breaking the law. Not a positive side-effect. Speaking of hair, how long can you go without seeing your hairdresser before you start looking pretty horrific? Salons have been deemed non-essential services and are closed, but I’m sure there’s a black market forming for those of us looking a bit scary.
Based on various models, the latest projections from national health leaders are that 100,000 to 200,000 people could die in the U.S. from this outbreak. I can’t conceive of that number, or that experts are so uncertain that they give themselves 100% margin of error, or that most people will die alone in isolation wards.
What’s equally inconceivable are expectations being placed on health care workers to put their lives on the line without adequate personal protective gear or the supplies and equipment needed to treat patients. What an unconscionable position to be in. But every health care worker I’ve seen interviewed has been professional, stoic, and committed. I hope that lasts in the days ahead when infections are expected to skyrocket and overwhelm many medical facilities and staffs.
There is much more that could be said about the shocking circumstances surrounding us today. But luckily there’s an alternative to just focusing on the gloom and doom. There exists 112 acres of beautiful terrain and first-class riding facilities in Cle Elum that belongs to and serves the horse community. Work is poised to resume to complete the covered arena, get more rubber mats in stalls, finish the new hospitality pavilion and much more. Spring is quietly unfolding in those woodlands as it has for countless millennium with sunny skies, fresh breezes, elk passing through and a parade of emerging wildflowers. The horse park is a timeless treasure and will be there for us all to enjoy with our horses and friends just as soon as the current health crisis is brought under control. Stay safe and well and I hope to see you at the park very soon!