Marengo farm still working to keep horses safe
Like many others across the world, Platinum Farm trainer Sirena Liggett is faced with challenges no one could ever dream about -- a sudden and unexpected change in business due to the global pandemic and rising concerns over human health and well-being.
Most equine professionals have been through some sort of contagious disease scenario, but usually it is an equine illness that can be controlled with good management and precautions, which doesn't compare to the international crisis at hand.
But Liggett is making the best of the state ordered shut down affecting her business and family.
Liggett has closed the barn doors at her Platinum Farm in Marengo to lessen the number of students and clients coming to see their horses, so now more of the care for about 30 horses is thrust on Liggett and the staff. She has been riding most of the horses daily, a task usually done by the horse owners, with staff helping with grooming duties in addition to increased turnout hours. She's even started using the indoor arena for turnout on rainy days to keep the horses moving.
Liggett is sending group texts to the boarders with videos, as well as posting photos on Facebook and Instagram to keep her clients up-to-date on their beloved animals. It's a hard time for the clients as well, who are used to almost daily visits with their horses to exercise and groom them.
Liggett's business is one of many that incurs expenses even though the doors are closed. The horses still need to be fed, so there are the costs of hay, grain and shavings. And staff still needs to get paid, as well as the usual utility bills.
Fortunately, Liggett's husband, Tim, is a farrier and his services are still needed for the animals' health. Even though many of the area barns are closed as well, he is still bringing home a weekly check to support the family's needs. Still, the farm business will be lucky to break even.
"Financially, this will be a rough month, or longer, depending on how long this pandemic lasts," said Liggett. "We don't make much profit off of board, so without lessons and show income, it might affect the planned improvements that we have for this summer.
"We are currently working on the finishing touches of a new tack room that we started before the virus, and we have lots of other improvements on our to-do list. We'll have to tighten our personal and business purse strings this year, cutting back where we can. I am looking into some of the SBA loans that are currently being offered for some assistance."
U.S. Equestrian has also shut down competitions across the country, currently until May 3, which cuts into Liggett's other opportunities to make money.
Platinum Farm usually attends at least two horse shows a month -- more during the summer. They also offer summer camps, lessons, training and an Interscholastic Equestrian Association riding team as part of their business offerings. With the doors closed, there is no income from these services.
In addition to the extra work at the business, the Liggetts have two children, Alita, 7, and Elodie, 4, who now need home schooling and are home all day.
"We are early risers and can usually be done with the bulk of the schoolwork by 9 a.m., and then we head to the barn to ride and work with the horses," Liggett said.
"My daily schedule is easier with no after school lessons to teach at the barn. We work in the barn from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I pack the girls a lunch, which they love, and consider it a picnic in the viewing room. After the barn, we head back to the house to do PE assignments from school, art or music, whatever we didn't finish in the morning.
"I go back to the barn after dinner when Tim is home and put away the late turnout horses, feed evening supplements and do a night check. It's all pretty normal for us, with the exception of no lessons and no boarders to talk to or oversee," Liggett said.
Liggett has only left the farm for groceries or the feed store. Tim travels to a few farms, but has Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer and only works with the horses, not people. Platinum Farm has its staff on-site daily to help care for the horses; no friends or family visitors are allowed.
When the crisis is over, Liggett is looking forward to all the customers getting to spend time with their horses again and having the lessons and shows start back up.
She is optimistic, and doing what it takes to get her family and business through this shelter in place period, eagerly looking forward to May events and business as usual.
For now, the quiet at Platinum Farm is part of the daily routine.
"This time in history makes you appreciate what you do have. We are making the best of it, but really look forward to business as usual more than ever," Liggett said.
Platinum Farm is at 19810 Beck Road, Marengo. For more information, visit www.platinumfarminc.com.