What do political scientists and horses have to do with each other? Not much, most would say, although I am the first and I ride the second. On further reflection, there are a few more similarities. Understanding politics is messy, difficult, and often confusing, and it shows the best and the worst in the human species. Riding horses is messy, difficult, and often confusing, and the way we interact with them shows the best and the worst in us, too. For me, riding horses and teaching and writing about politics are all deeply cerebral activities, and (as the quintessential nerd), I enjoy the theory and reality of these pursuits.
Photo by Morgan Connelly.
Where riding is so wonderfully, satisfyingly different from my job, though, is that it involves doing very physical and challenging activities with an entirely different species; one that doesn’t speak our language, weighs upwards of ten times more than us, and has a generosity of spirit that is too rarely seen among our own kind. I love my job and I get great joy out of sharing my interests and insights into politics with my students. Riding, however, is where I go to get out of my head, something that I need especially during those times when what we are talking about in class seems to have no bright spots.
I’m an ammy rider who recently moved up to the Low Amateur Owner Jumpers with my fantastic horse, Steve. I rode hunters and equitation as a junior, lo these many years ago, and my journey into being a competitive jumper rider (um, or simply competent, to be honest), has been a long one. We came off a four month break due to a nasty bone bruise in the beginning of March, both Steve and I excited to return to work. Good timing, right?
Photo by Morgan Connelly.
COVID-19 has engulfed nearly everything for the foreseeable future; so far I am very, very lucky in that for me and my loved ones it has been less serious than for so many others. The scope and tragedy of this pandemic has highlighted a few things for me, among them that having horses is a great privilege and luxury and I am grateful every day I have this outlet. I have gotten some heartbreaking news about their own families from many of my students and the ability to spend time with my horse, which I still have, is a small window of comfort and calm I do not take for granted.
We will find our way through this, and as I consider the political implications of the pandemic as they intersect with my own life, I continue to be hopeful. We all have the capacity to make positive changes in our lives and in the life of our communities. The H/J community has many small and large challenges ahead. Rescheduling horse shows, safely reopening barns and venues, emerging from economic hardship; these call for serious, long term strategies. We also have an opportunity to think about how to solve some of our pre-existing issues, to come out of this stronger, more connected, more humane toward our horses and each other, and more grounded. I don’t know what will happen with any of this, but I am excited to see what awaits us on the other side of this crisis. Meanwhile, I’ll dream of the future, feed Steve bananas (his absolute favorite), and hope for the best for us all.