What happens when global pandemic containment measures mean that you can't go see your horse? Caterina, a junior rider in Rome, Italy, is facing strict quarantine measures as her country remains in lockdown until at least the 3rd of April. We chatted with Caterina about the situation in Italy and how it has affected her once-bustling hometown of Rome.
The first time I heard about the Coronavirus was on social media, and it was most likely some meme about it. Even when I gradually started hearing more about it from my friends, and watched the number of cases stack up on the news, I never expected to be put in quarantine. I also never thought that I would not be able to see my horse for so long. And yet, here we are.
The warnings about the virus began on February 24th when the government put 11 northern Italy towns on lockdown. Living in Rome, we were still able to go about our normal lives, we were just warned about washing our hands and keeping the safety distance. Then the Italian schools closed on the 4th of March. At that point, it was explained that the schools would resume on the 20th of March and that some schools would offer online lessons. Finally on the 9th of March, the Italian government decided to extend the closure of the schools to the 3rd of April. This is because the entire country is put on a strict lockdown until then.
Caterina and Cool Boy, before the quarantine.
The Italian horse riding federation (FiSE) communicated to all equestrians that they would be able to ride and go see their horses, but that they would have to sign a sort of a contract declaring that they were leaving their house to go to the barn. In this case, some barns decided that it would be better to shut down the “public services” and allowed only horse owners to go and ride and check on their horses. But this all changed the very next day, when the committee of the federation met once again and decided that the stable owner/trainer would be able to take care of the horses and that all the riders should stay at home. They said that going to see your horse or to ride isn't a necessity and that it could wait until after the lockdown.
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Personally, I haven't seen my horse - Cool Boy, an 8-year-old Holsteiner that I compete in the 1.15m - since the 10th of March. My family and I can't leave the house unless it's for a valid reason such as getting food. The queues at the supermarket are an hour long and the shelves are almost empty in most shops. The city looks deserted and spooky. Rome is usually packed with people but now, the streets are empty.
At first, I was quite annoyed that I was not even able to go and look at my horse, but then I realised that by doing this we are helping out the entire country and making sure people aren't getting sick. It's quite scary to look at it on the news as sometimes the information can be over-dramatized, but by looking at statistics it doesn't seem as scary as its said to be. Mainly I'm concerned about my grandmother who obviously is quite old and could suffer greatly from the virus.
It's also really tough not being able to see Cool Boy. He means the world to me and riding is my mental release from daily life; not having that is tough. This has completely cancelled all of my training plans and all of my shows; I'm missing (at least) 3 weeks of training and 3 competitions because of the virus, which is quite upsetting as I was in a really good rhythm with my horse.
For all of those who are put in quarantine like me and can't see their horse, make sure to ask whoever is taking care of your horse for pictures and updates - it really does help and it gives you some peace of mind. Meditating really does help a lot and it kills some time, so give it a try if you have not. Do the things you never wanted or had the time to do, like clean your dresser! Bake something, perhaps! I have also taken this time to watch as many Equestrian Masterclasses as I can.
Finally, if you feel sick in any way, or if your town has put restrictions in place, please stay home. I know it's tough, but this is the time to band together and lessen the risk for your family, friends, and fellow human.
Photos courtesy of Caterina.