By Linda Hazelwood, MHC Business Manager and ex-Recreation Chair
Are We There Yet?
For everyone it’s been a long winter and spring, and it’s developing into a longer summer as we try to make the best of the situation. But horse people are used to weathering adversity, right? At Manitoba Horse Council (MHC), just like the other provincial associations representing horse people, since March we’ve been in a “hurry up and wait” position. Like everyone else, we’ve been learning new technologies, new protocols, and doing our best to help our members come to terms with what COVID-19 has meant to the lives we took for granted with our horses.
Manitoba horse people have been more fortunate than some other provinces; as a well-spread out community not linked to a major travel hub, the province was shut down very quickly and managed to keep a grip on COVID-19 cases. Although horse riding was at first classed as “recreational riding,” we also maintained the position that boarders were essential services for their horses. In the absence of support staff, boarders were able to carry on providing daily care and exercise, as long as the management of the boarding barn was comfortable maintaining COVID-19 protocols. MHC was able to work for members and prepare their Return to Play protocols for provincial approval very quickly (thank you for the groundwork, Equestrian Canada!), and widened activities within those parameters.
We hope that our province’s managers now understand that distance riding is not done in an arena, and polo needs a field bigger than a soccer pitch — and there are no nets to sanitize. Just kidding! Our provincial managers have been awesome.
MHC’s Equestrian Facility in Bird’s Hill Park was able to open in mid-June, with Manitoba Hunter Jumper Association working with Manitoba Horse Trials to provide opportunities for training. At the same time, MHC opened up one of the largest sand rings for one-hour flat practice sessions four evenings a week, so flat riders could remind their horses what is was like to ride next to dragon bleachers and things blowing in the wind.
We congratulate members who renewed their MHC memberships to maintain the valuable insurance options that come along with that. Every year, we repeat the message that MHC membership starts January 1 and coverage starts the minute a member renews, so it’s risky to wait until show season to get that important coverage.
Looking at the bigger picture, a strong horse industry benefits everyone — through strength of numbers, provincial horse associations were able to back Equestrian Canada’s program to provide support for lesson horses in jeopardy when riding facilities were closed to the public.
Your Manitoba Horse Council continues to work for you behind the scenes, and hopes to see you all at events in the coming months.