After the Pandemic

Three equestrian doctors who thank you for staying home: Christina Cox, Elena Perea and Joanna Newton with her horse Margot Rita. Photo by Mellisa Warden.

Everyone is sick of hearing about how COVID-19 has changed the world — we are living it every day. You can’t go out when you want or where you want. Millions of people are out of work and struggling financially. Parents are home-schooling, or struggling to get childcare.

Perhaps most disappointing to some readers here is the fact that equestrian competitions the world over have been canceled or delayed. Everything from Land Rover Kentucky to Badminton to the Tokyo Olympics will not happen this year. The disappointment from competitors who have worked their entire lives for this was clear, and the arguments against the decision of the USEF and others were voiced on the internet chatrooms and social media sites. “The virus isn’t that bad.” “It’s like a cold for most people—worst case the flu!” “Only the old or debilitated will die—who is old and debilitated that rides?”

As someone who reports to a tertiary care hospital for work every day, I can’t say thank you loudly enough to the USEF, USEA, USDF, and USHJA for heeding the warnings of experts. Every day, my colleagues and I sit down and take stock of what preparations need to be made in coming weeks: we are waiting for the storm we know is coming. It’s not here yet, but we can see it headed toward us, down the east coast, unimpeded by vaccines or sunny weather.

Elena Perea and B E Isabella at the Vista. Photo by Joanna Newton.

I went to medical school, through five more years of training in the field of psychiatry, and have been practicing and teaching for a decade at some of the best medical schools and hospitals in the country. If you had asked me at any point in the last 15 years of my involvement in medicine if I ever thought this would happen, I would have said not a chance. No way would we, the richest nation in the world, ever be unable to care for the people due to lack of beds.

Never would doctors be in short supply in the largest city in the nation. It was absolutely inconceivable. Somehow, however, retired physicians are volunteering for service. My colleagues and I are anxiously reviewing medical texts, trying to remember things we haven’t done since internship, just in case we have to practice a specialty that is not ours, to help the experts do the work of saving our country.

After the pandemic, we will still have horses. Mine is out there now, enjoying the break from competition, enjoying the spring grass. She really likes it when I come to see her and all I want to do is hug her and not make her work! She will still be there when it’s time, ready to go run around a Training, maybe a Prelim with my old debilitated adult amateur self.

After the pandemic, the events will run again. They will fill on opening day, since we will have missed them so much. They will draw spectators that have been housebound, and attract new fans. The events will be reborn, and the jumps will be freshly painted, and we will flock back.

But for now, please stay home, give blood, and thank everyone that works in medicine that you know.

Elena Perea is a physician in southern Appalachia, an adjunct professor at the UNC School of Medicine, and an avid adult amateur eventer.