PonyPandemic, PonyApp, Giving Back

Friends in Need: 3 Ways to Help the Equestrian Community During Coronavirus

As we approach the one-month mark in the Coronavirus pandemic quarantine, every day seems to bring with it another dose of bad news. In every industry, in every segment of society, no one is immune to the effects, especially those in our equestrian community.

For many of us, not being able to horse show or visit our boarded horses is a drag. But for others in the industry, it’s far more serious than that. For those fortunate enough to be in a position to help, it can be hard to know the best ways to connect and donate. To that end, we went straight to the source(s) to find out three, real ways you can help the people in our community that need it the most.

For Those That Work in the Horse Show Industry

These are the people that most of us thought of first when the horse show industry ground to a halt — and for good reason. Grooms (especially those that freelance); jump, ring, and in-gate crews; horse show stewards, security, and administrators; and other staff are particularly vulnerable to financial hardship right now, and there’s no better time than the present to make a donation to help support them.

The country’s top riders (think: Beezie, Kent, McLain, Lauren Hough and others) have banded together to release a video in support of the new Show Jumping Relief FundFounded by Ariel and Daniel Bluman, the GoFundMe effort has, at press time, raised more than $34,000, reaching out and sending funds to more than 80 people in need, with new applications being received every day. Using a sliding scale of funding based on the number of people in each applicant’s family, donations are helping staffers pay for things like groceries and pressing bills at this challenging time. If you can contribute, please do so: click here.

For Client-Based Businesses

In addition to those involved in the day-to-day running of horse shows, the incomes of many client-based small businesses are also being impacted. These include private photographers, braiders, tack store owners, massage and physiotherapists (horse and human), and others. “I currently don’t have a light at the end of the tunnel, when 90 percent of my income comes from horse shows,” says private photographer Kaitlyn Karssen. “Between [the lost income] and not knowing when I’ll be able to work again, it creates a very hopeless feeling.

“It might seem silly, but if everyone can show [some] solidarity during this, it’ll go a long way. Nothing is going to be too small right now,” says Kaitlyn, who particularly worries about paying the expenses on her two, boarded horses.

(c) Kaitlyn Karssen

For private photographers and other businesses that offer it, Karssen says one of the best ways people can help is to purchase prints or gift certificates for future services. “If someone ordered one, 20x 30 acrylic [photo], that’s more than my horses’ [board] for the month. That one order makes me feel some sort of relief,” she explains. “[If you’re in the position to do so], place that order. Buy a gift card. Buy a new pair of breeches. Buy some of those fancy horse treats. It makes more of a difference than someone might realize.”

One thing you should not do to those who depend on client-based income? Ask for refunds. “Asking for transfers instead of refunds is huge,” Kaitlyn notes. “Simply put, I literally can’t afford to refund everyone [right now].”

The bottom line: if you support a client-based small business, do what you can as an individual to help keep it afloat. Remember, they’re there for you when you need them — shooting at the side of the ring, braiding at 3 a.m., and offering gear and services that help keep your horse in top form. Right now, if you possibly can, it’s time to return the favor.

For Equine Rescues, Charities, Non-Profits, & Lesson Barns

At a time when people are suffering to pay their own rent and grocery bills, you can bet the animals that rely on them for food, shelter, and day-to-day care are being impacted as well. “While there are government-funded programs out there for non-profits, small businesses, and individuals to cover expenses such as payroll, rent, and utilities, these programs do not cover the costs to maintain our horses and other small farm animals,” says Carol Ann Guerriero, Program Director for Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, a therapeutic riding center in Islandia, New York.

“Most, if not all of the donations that are coming in during this time are going toward the essential needs of our livestock and the maintenance of our property,” says Carol Ann, noting that there are a number of ways you can support organizations like Pal-O-Mine, as well as struggling lesson barns, when the going gets tough.

Top on the list: staying connected to support and share information about fundraisers, sponsorships, webinars, and other efforts offered by the barn or organization, and spreading the word within your own social circle. In addition, Carol Ann says to look for ways you can support a stable’s specific ‘Wish-List’ requests on websites and social media. Next up (and this is an easy one!): in the days of ‘shelter in place’, when the online shopping industry is booming, do what you can to purchase smarter.

Amazon Smile is the easiest way to contribute to a not-for-profit, including Pal-O-Mine,” says Carol Ann, adding that you can log into your regular Amazon account at smile.amazon.com and select the non-profit of your choice. Shop for the items you need as you normally would, and a percentage of your total will automatically be donated by Amazon to the charity you select.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Carol Ann says, don’t forget your ‘why’. The direct implications of any donation helps, of course, but the ripple effects can extend so much further than that. “One of the first things that we did at Pal-O-Mine, when the executive order to shut all nonessential businesses was given, was to write personal letters to each of our students from ‘their’ horses,” says Carol Ann.

“For so many of our students, the horse(s) that they work with each week are their best — sometimes only — friend, and more often than not, they are their confidants. These horses help our students to reach their goals, grow exponentially in many areas of their lives, and for so many, are [their] source of self-esteem and positive self-image.

“Having small comforts and something to look forward to weekly, like receiving a personal letter in the mail, or a specific email about their horse brings hope — knowing that their best friend is being taken care of, and misses them. It also helps to keep some normalcy in their lives.”

Who did we miss? How else can we help? Drop us a line or let us know in the comments section. Let’s keep this conversation going!

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