Recently, I had the opportunity to complete an equine veterinary externship in The Horse Capital of the World itself (Ocala, Florida), at one of the premier equine specialty clinics there. Obviously, it was a chance too good to pass up, but it meant that I’d be leaving my mare behind for about two weeks.
It might not seem like a ton of time, but two weeks is the longest I’ve ever left my horse. I knew she was in good hands, so I tried to really involve myself while on my trip. But when you ride, work at or otherwise just visit the barn every day, at least once per day (if not more), it leaves you with a lot of time to think about your horse.
So when you can’t be with your horse, what can you do?
Spend time with other people’s horses
Being in Ocala at an equine hospital, this one wasn’t difficult. I was surrounded by horses of every shape and size, every day. But those horses were clients, so while they were great teachers, but it’s not like I was hanging out in those barns to get my horse fix.
Luckily, I have a good friend in Ocala who has two horses. Coincidentally, she had to go out of town for a few days, so I ended up horse-sitting for her. I joked with my fellow barn workers back in Indiana that I was staying in peak stall-cleaning form.
Through this same friend, I was able to go to a local barn and get some saddle time on 2 lovely geldings, and was even able to jump around a bit, which was great. Being used to riding 6 days a week, I was missing riding after a few days.
Find some equestrian-related sights
In Ocala, this one was also a no-brainer. In addition to beautiful farms in every direction, I was able to see some renowned breeding farms and show grounds while out on ambulatory calls with the clinic.
Thanks to my friend, I was also able to tour the Florida Horse Park, and actually spent part of one of my weekends helping run a schooling show there. I was able to help run the show jump ring, which meant I got to see cool horses, and meet a great group of equestrians and event organizers throughout the day.
I also ended up spending a couple mornings helping paint jumps for the Florida Horse Park (one of my favorite crafty equestrian projects that also makes me super nostalgic for barn work days with my equestrian team during undergrad).
Although I ran out of time, one of the vets also suggested a park where we could do guided scenic trail rides – and if I go back, that’ll be on the to-do list for sure.
Get updates about your own horse
All the Florida ponies were pretty cool, and it was a blast being able to sit on some very different horses from my own; but that didn’t make me miss my horse any less. Luckily, I had the other barn workers and one of the barn moms not only texting me updates, but also sending pictures, which was great. One night, the barn girls even tried to video chat with me – and although we couldn’t get the video to work, I had a nice phone call with my mare (apparently she was watching the phone when she heard my voice, but when she couldn’t see me, she left for the back of the field to go eat).
Even if you’re not in The Horse Capital of the World, there are always ways to get a horse fix if you’re separated from your own pony. Live streaming horse shows, finding a place that offers trail rides, making friends with a carriage horse or mounted police officer, or sharing a friends’ horse, if you are lucky!