Before the onset of COVID-19, Courtney Green, a senior account supervisor at Carmichael Lynch Relate, was used to visiting her American Saddlebred horse Bunny six days a week.
Bunny is 10, but Green has owned her since she was three. Green describes Bunny as the “kindest horse on Earth.” And that’s thanks to all the hard work that she and her mother have put into training Bunny “from the ground up.”
But when the pandemic hit, the barn where Bunny lives was temporarily shut down to outside visitors.
Green shares how Bunny has helped to relieve her stress amid the pandemic and how her beloved pet has made her a better communicator.
First, what is the story behind her name?
Her registered name is My Easter Bunny because she was born on Easter. We thought about changing it but when she arrived I was like, actually, she is sort of like a bunny. She has that sort of lighthearted personality.
I understand you were unable to see Bunny at the onset of the pandemic. Can you tell me about that and how it affected you?
We board her at a barn that is owned by someone else and does all the day-to-day care in terms of cleaning her stall and making sure she is fed. My mom and I handle all of her training. When the pandemic started, the barn owner wasn’t sure what was going to happen and knowing she and her husband are the only people there to feed and take care of the basic needs of the horses, they made the decision to shutdown the barn to all outside visitors to make sure they could stay quarantined and healthy and continue to take care of the horses. That made complete sense to us but it was hard to not see Bunny at all. I realized how much a part of my routine it was to go out to see Bunny and the process of working with her. The process is very physical, so when you spend most of your day in front of a computer thinking so hard, it’s a nice change of pace and a nice way to unwind. I realized how much of an outlet going to the barn and that routine had become for me. Suddenly it was a lot harder to find things to do that were the same type of stress relief. The barn was completely shut down from March through May 2020. It was so strange to have so much time on my hands and be so dissatisfied with life. It was hard.
How has Bunny helped you during the pandemic?
Once it became clear it wasn’t just going to take two weeks to flatten the curve, we were allowed to come back to see our horses with safety precautions in place, and my mental health drastically improved immediately. Seeing my horse and working with her is an important routine in my life, and horses are well documented for having a calming and therapeutic effect on people. When nothing else in the world felt normal, seeing my horse was respite from the upheaval. That was one thing I could still do that was completely as it was before the pandemic started. While I’d arrive at the barn feeling the weight of everything on my shoulders, I’d leave feeling calmer and more like myself again.
How has Bunny helped in your job as a communicator?
I am fortunate that my mother loves horses as much as I do, so being a “horse girl” has been a lifelong badge of honor. It’s always a great conversation starter when meeting new people, and I’ve also had a couple clients who also have horses themselves. However, communication is one of the biggest areas in my professional life that horses have impacted. When I’m working with a horse, I am communicating with a thousand-pound animal that does not speak English. It takes a lot of creativity to clearly communicate and work together and requires me to look for subtle forms of feedback. When my horse makes a mistake, that usually means I need to reassess the way I asked for something or communicated the goal. Working with my horse has also made me better at managing stressful situations. Because horses are herd animals, they can sense stress signals much faster than the average person, and because they’re flight animals, well, they’re likely to overreact. This helped me approach challenges with a proactive, solutions-focused mindset to guide my horse through the moment, rather than letting my own stress translate to her behavior. This is a mindset I’ve often tapped in my career, as well.
Are your coworkers or clients familiar with Bunny?
Yes. The agency has done programs where people are invited to share hobbies or things they do or enjoy outside of work. So I did a presentation about Bunny. I have another coworker who has horses, as well. I’ve also had some coworkers come to local horse shows to see me ride her. So people are definitely aware of Bunny and how much time I am spending with her at the barn.