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Mackenna Lee


Disembark, Grow, Illuminate.

Inflection points of life bends the modus operandi. For me, moving to New York City tactically translated to partitioning a recurrent partner in my life. Horses offered me curriculum in appreciation and endless want. It has taken me time – but I am grateful for those lessons.

In the context of quarantine, I might be traveling on the Express Highway for acceptance over the loss of “normalcy”. While still struggling to balance the gloomy headlines, I’ve grown accustomed to my (strikingly calm) quarantine existence. My career is not centered on healthcare nor was my livelihood even threatened, which deserves a bold asterisk in this entire deluge. I am gloriously endowed with an easier existence than most – especially in these times.

Quarantine set about a path of acclimating to societal change. The proliferation of COVID lightly revised work, shifting in-person touchpoints to virtual ones. Meanwhile the shuttering of stores, restaurants, museums, parks and our new masked wardrobe reoriented business (and play) “as usual”.

We’ve clambered to abide and live within the restrictions. Though eradicating horses  mere months before the upheaval of COVID proved a training ground.

When I was sixteen, we sold my horse. The closest equivalent for those outside the sport is a dog passing away. Instead of the serenity of the animal ending its suffering in an ethereal “better place”, social media reminds you that your partner is close by. Losing the familiarity, the friendship, and the release empties your heart and shakes your identity.

Prior to selling Riley, I spent each day riding. After school, I took care of him, worked on our next milestone, and – in the saccharine way that teenage girls often behave – told him my angsty, coming-of-age problems. There is a reason horse people frequently describe riding as “therapy”.


To this day, owning a horse is outside my financial capacity, so to live the joy of owning Riley for years is a greater luxury afforded to most of the population.

In coping with the loss of my friend, the teeanged-me erratically lashed out. Aging luckily has deposited perspective, and since then, I’ve said hello and goodbye to many more horses. Each rip of the band-aid brought emotional agility to tackle further losses. When this September came around, I said goodbye to horses entirely (at least for a short while).

A void builds despite the repeated goodbye’s. I traded riding every day to yearning for the shadow of its sensation on digital platforms. Its intangibility peddles you, prodding your heart with each reminder. Wallowing in pain was not a graceful or useful expense of time.

With brokenness came solutions to fill the cracks. Relationships kept me whole. Volunteering kept me sane. Work kept me busy. The passage of time showed me that horses will always be there in pixels through my phone, and happiness can be unearthed in the outdoors.

The decision to sell Riley was not within my direct control, similar to the quarantine-related decisions outside the control of the general population. When governments surreptitiously curbed pleasures and delights, folks roared in anger. How dare you kaboosh liberties. Dictate our wardrobe. Trample on our fun.

It’s the crowd reaction of our regular habits being robbed from us – even for good reason. The outrage felt is in part a coping mechanism, not dissimilar from my initial loss of Riley. The unknown and different scares us.

For a period of time, I wasted hours on scrolling through horse-themed posts, reaching for that I could not have. When I observed reality for what it would be – without horses – I accepted the transition. I spun less. My mind settled from the blinding dust.

Quarantine grinds us, but giving up horses reinforced resiliency in my optimism. Deconstruction of society means a blank slate for thoughtful, kind people to build something new. A new life, though different, is still a delectation.

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