Well, here we are, well into the summer months (although the weather here in the UK is more like September than July) and still only feeling our way out of the full lock-down that has impacted most countries around the world.
In April, the BALANCE office was forced to close completely, with Teressa and I furloughed in an attempt to wait-out the complete stopping of income with most horse owners around the world being forced to stop riding.
The bills for the company running costs still had to be paid during the lockdown, so we were very appreciative of the government's extraordinary efforts to support businesses, big and small with grants and the furlough scheme.
Now that things are slowly moving and people are emerging from their enforced restrictions, we have started to accept orders again through the web-shop and for saddles, because the manufacturers are working now, even if not up to full speed. Teressa has started to work on some days now to keep on top of the sales and book-keeping side of the business. I am about to start doing a few hours as well, but the office won’t be back up to normal working hours and systems for a while yet. I am sorry for any delays and/or inconvenience this might create for our clients. Keren has been very supportive and as she is self-employed, she has not been furloughed and has been able to log into emails to try to deal with some things that seemed urgent while Teressa and I have been unable to get involved.
I feel sure that we have not seen the last of the Covid disruption, but it looks like governments around the world are now tackling things in a more localised way, so hopefully, we won’t need everyone to be forced back into their homes for weeks again.
Some of you may know that it looked for a while, that we might lose a very important person in the BALANCE network, in the form of Wayne Clark who is a key part of the WRM company that makes the Equinox and Horizon saddles for us. It was touch and go for a while, but somehow, he managed to find the strength and determination to beat all the odds and survive, much to our relief and joy. The road he is on to recover fully is a long one, and probably frustrating for a man who is used to being very capable and strong, but at least he is on that road. It could have easily been a very different story.
Knowing someone who has had the virus and been very badly affected, or even died, really brings the gravity of the situation home.
Although we have not been allowed to do our normal work, while on furlough, Teressa and I had no choice but to roll our sleeves up and move everything out of the Westcott premises during June, as our lease ended at the end of July. It was an enormous task to move over 20 years’ worth of ‘stuff’ out. We had to find new homes for a lot of it but still ended up with a huge skip that was filled to the top. I hate throwing things away, as Teressa will tell you! So it was a painful process to put some of the things into the skip that had been part of our lives for so long. However, the company we used, recycles almost everything and I knew that it had to go.
We have sent things up for the time being to deal with the company administration from our homes, rather than trying to relocate everything to a specific new office during all the uncertainty of the Covid restrictions. The practical side of managing the stock has changed but fortunately, we have found a very nice and secure facility that we can use for this, so although it all feels very different and not as easy as it was, we are able to function again. As things settle down, we can see how things are running and look at whether/where we take on another building for BALANCE to run from.
Although it may seem a little odd to be talking about taking a holiday and closing the office when we are only just creeping back into opening up again, with all the behind-the-scenes effort that went into moving out of Westcott Venture Park, Teressa and I will need a break by the time we get to September, which is when we had already set dates for our normal, late-summer-holiday. I will put some reminders on Facebook as we get closer to the dates, but in the meantime, I can tell you that we will take a break from dealing with orders, emails, and phone calls between the dates of 14th September back to work 28th September.
I think there are some potentially good things that will come from this strange time we are living through and we have to keep looking for those things so we are not overwhelmed by the difficult issues. Our animals often help to de-stress us and that role is even more important at the moment. I don’t think that riding events that normally create social gatherings of horse-mad people are going to be happening much for the rest of this year, so I really hope that 2021 allows life to open up again.
Meantime, we have to enjoy the rest of 2020 in whatever ways we can and stay optimistic for the future. The BALANCE registered Saddling TEAM are getting more requests for visits and help around the world and are adapting their own skills to include more remote support, using technology like Zoom, Skype etc.
Birgitta Bergsten has always been keen on the use of technology and done her first Webinar to take people through the theoretical side of Functional & Constructive Saddling before she goes out to let them try saddles. This will save everyone a lot of time at the Consultations and can be viewed again, because there is a lot of information to remember.
It’s something I have been thinking that I ought to have a go at! I will have to get some feedback via Facebook to see who might be interested.
Meantime, I wish you good health and that you are getting the support you need to cope with the current situation and look to the future with a positive plan.