BY SISSY WICKES
Without horse shows and the bustling season, Sissy Wickes joins a group of equestrians in Florida for cycling. Every day, safely six feet apart, they chat about the state of things and dealing with our current times. You can read Day One and Two to catch up.
The days of quarantine wear on, none differentiated from the other than by date which I usually can’t remember. I am fielding calls from people wondering if I have any idea about the future of the competition schedule. I do not. Some ask if I think indoors will be held in the same way they always have been. I do not. Some ask if I know when I may go north. I do not.
I am a sphinx. Not because I am coy and silent, but because I have no more knowledge than anyone else. It is difficult to hold this stationary pose, exhausting in fact, because we are a community of interaction and motion. Perhaps I am feeling especially solitary because I haven’t had any horse interaction- always soothing to the soul. I swing my leg over my bike feeling ponderous and pitiful. Maybe a ride with the gang will improve my demeanor.
We peel away from the parking lot and begin the ride, staggered on both sides of the sidewalk like flags on a slalom course, empowered by our large group and the effort to stay distanced. We dare not ride on the road as law dictates because drivers are even more distracted during this stay at home decree. Like bears emerging from hibernation, they blink in the daylight, pointing open mouthed at trees and birds as their cars weave across the yellow line. We stay on the sidewalk, tormenting other bikers and walkers that we pass. “On your left” or “heads up” we yell as we pedal through—a motley but determined gang.
I fall in place next to a trainer from the Midwest and we start to chat about our kids, mine who are grown and living all over the globe and hers who is a very successful junior rider.
“Your daughter must have been really disappointed that WEF ended so early,“ I suggest.
“She was,” her mother responds and then proceeds to list all of the circuit standings and qualifying classes that were left unfinished with the abrupt halt of competition. The kid was having one hell of a first quarter of 2020 on her way to a stellar junior year of competition.
“So, how do you handle her disappointment?” I ask, expecting a response that included ice cream, more horses, clothes- the things my sixteen year old self would have wanted.
“I remind her that these are horse shows and people are dying in our country. There is no comparison.”
I look at her and blink as my expectations recalibrate. This! This is what my sorry soul needed to hear. Suddenly, the weight of opaque answers and undetermined plans is less burdensome. The four walls of my house have created myopia of perspective. I worry constantly about my business, my horse industry, my schedule and the bigger picture fades to a backdrop.
I have heard stories of reactions when the early end of WEF was announced. Parents weeping, I am not ready for this to be my daughter’s last week at WEF. Or, But, we are almost Circuit Champion and now we won’t be able to catch up. Many lamented expensive horse leases extending beyond the now abbreviated circuit. I deserve to get my money back because we can’t show. These are all valid responses and I am not claiming moral superiority. I would have sniveled with disappointment as well. I press on with the conversation.
“What do you think of this idea of ‘red shirting,’ of giving juniors another year of eligibility?”
“I think it’s a bad idea,” she responded. “It will not work logistically, and will lead to questions with all of the other age groups. What about small pony riders, what about junior hunter riders- all of the age restricted divisions will want to be included.”
We continue to toss the ball of conversation back and forth as we bike along a canal. Disappointment has permeated into many aspects of the lives of our children. Community and friendships found in the classroom, in church, and in sports are gone. Proms, graduations, and championship competitions are cancelled. Their expectations, the things they thought they were entitled to, are unfulfilled. Sad? Yes. Unsettling? Absolutely. But, as my biking friend stated, “As tough as this might be for my daughter, there are people who are truly suffering right now. We need to teach our kids to have perspective and think about a world that extends well beyond horse shows.”
As the ten mile loop ends and goodbyes are shouted, I swing homeward. Looking back a few yards down the sidewalk, I sight her in a larger frame.
I think she was speaking to me.
About the Author: Sissy is a Princeton University graduate, a lifelong rider and trainer, a USEF R rated judge, a freelance journalist, an autism advocate and Cohost of The Plaidcast. Her illustrious resume includes extensive show hunter and jumper experience. She lives with her family in Unionville, PA and Wellington, FL.
Read More from This Author »