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The positive side COVID-19 bringing horse communities together in an unforgettable waySeptember 2020

Story by: Amanda St Onge


Equine Information Source poster imageThe Equine Information Source (EIS), is a team of undergraduate research assistants dedicated to researching, creating and providing information to equine communities across Canada about how to deal with and protect against COVID-19. Throughout the summer, our team has spoken with many people from equine communities, all of whom have their own stories to tell. Living through this pandemic has been hard for a lot of people, and the media has done its part in documenting the hardships of those in our community, but our team wants to share the positive stories and changes that have emerged from this.


A sense of community was always a large part of the horse world, as everyone who is in it knows. When tragedy hits, we come together and make each other stronger. Take for example barn fires or natural disasters that have proven this in the past. But a global pandemic has brought this to an entirely new level. People from across the country and the world are coming together to support and help each other through these hard times. This support comes in many forms, such as feed donations, volunteered land use for grazing, fundraisers and even simple tips and tricks videos or articles. Our community has never pulled together more than it has over the past few months and hopefully we can continue this trend.


The For The Herd campaign is a great example of a local fundraiser that was created to raise money to feed and house school horses in Ontario. This fundraiser was initiated by Jen Sweet, and run through Ontario Equestrian, who saw the struggle of school horse barns to support and feed their animals. To date, the campaign has raised over $190,000 in donations that will be used to make sure that the horses who dedicate their lives to teaching our young horse lovers to ride, will be safe, well cared for, and fed throughout the tough months that await them in the winter.


MASCARA is another campaign that has taken a bit of a different approach to raising money for our horses in need. Red Scarf Equestrian representative Susan Jamieson and Dunrovin Ranch SuzAnne Miller, creators and supporters of the MASCARA campaign, teamed up with a fashion house in Paris, France, Hermès, to create stunningly beautiful silk scarves, whose proceeds go directly to the campaign to help horses in North America. The scarf is a unique creation featuring a magnificent Canadian Clydesdale whose lashes are dusted in snow, as though mascara has been applied. The MASCARA campaign is quickly turning into a brand as projects such as makeup lines, and partnerships with big brand names such as Coca Cola, Revlon and P&G are in the works. Partnerships such as these could change the lives of millions of horses and horse owners in North America.


While fundraisers and campaigns are doing their part to help our horses in these unprecedented times, the EIS team thought it would important to ask members of horse communities what positive impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic they experienced. Their answers were enlightening, citing thoughts of being given the chance to reconnect with the importance of horses in their lives, given that many competitions are cancelled, and barn time is restricted. This pandemic has stripped most of the horse community of its competition goals and has brought us back to the main reason we got involved with horses in the first place, because no one enters the horse world thinking, “I want to win ribbons”; we come into the horse world thinking “I love them, and I want to care for them.”


Many barn owners spoke about the opportunities this enforced time off has presented them. Revisiting their books and finances has allowed them to make economic changes to improve their business plan, consequently benefitting the lives of the horses they care for. Projects that have been on hold for ages are now being completed along with new improvements or renovations. Some barn owners have installed outdoor hitching posts and wash racks for their boarders as they have seen benefits of utilizing outdoor areas in the past few months. Less crowding and more space to maneuver are a plus when it comes to tacking up horses. While people took mandatory breaks from showing, competing, and lessons, the horses received a well-deserved break from their usual long days of riding or training.


With all the negative impacts of COVID-19 in the horse communities, we are proud to showcase the positive aspects that have come out of this pandemic. While one may not outweigh the other, there is no point in focusing on only one side of the story. We as a community can focus on the positive side as we come together to help one another. This pandemic is a learning curve for us all and if we remember that we can all make a difference no matter how small the gesture; we as a community will be stronger for it. Remember not to judge those in need and lend a helping hand instead, because you never know if one day you will be the one in need. Look at people through the eyes of your horse, with love, patience and compassion.


The Equine Information Source is partnered with Equine Guelph and Equestrian Canada to disseminate information across multiple platforms as well as our YouTube channel where you can find video interviews with industry professionals, such as vets, farriers, and equestrian business owners providing insight on pandemic challenges.


For more information, contact Dr. Katrina Merkies, kmerkies@uoguelph.ca