Covid-19 Advice / FAQ For Horse Owners

The British Equestrian Federation’s advice (issued Tuesday 24 March) states: “There is currently no government guidance that we are aware of in relation to riding, so it is down to you to decide whether this is necessary.

“Given that health services are currently stretched to capacity, it’s sensible to avoid any activities that carry an increased risk of injury, such as jumping, fast work and riding a young, fresh or spooky horse. If you must hack out, be mindful of other people walking, cycling and running, and keep the two-metre distance. Lungeing, in-hand work and turn-out are good alternatives to ridden exercise.”

The BHS’s statement (issued Tuesday 24 March) states “there are no specific government guidelines at present” regarding riding, but adds “[The BHS] advise that it is not appropriate to put unnecessary pressure on the emergency services and everyone should make their own individual decision as to whether riding is necessary at this time.”

“Pet shops”, which include feed merchants, have been included on the government’s list of shops that will remain open during the current restrictions, so there should be no problem with getting hard feed and forage for your horse.

The BEF recommends taking advantage of feed, hay and bedding suppliers who offer a delivery service, and says owners should “liaise with them closely to ensure that their service isn’t impacted”. It also recommends making suitable provision of essential supplies without panic buying.

The BEF recommends making a plan with your yard owner or manager, or your fellow liveries, for what will happen if you’re unable to get to the yard. If you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19 or if somebody in your household does, even if they’re only mild, do not visit your horse. You will need to self-isolate for at least seven days or for 14 in a shared household.

The BHS recommends all owners prepare a care plan for each horse. This can include things like which rugs he wears, what he eats, any medication, where you keep your equipment and his normal routine.

Other tips include ensuring you have sufficient supplies — without panic buying – and keeping in touch with your fellow liveries and yard owner through a WhatsApp group.

The government is telling all people to stay at home, so while at the moment there are no restrictions specifically relating to riding, most full livery yards have closed to owners with all care being provided by livery yard staff. The BEF recommends keeping in touch with your yard by phone, email or video call so you only make essential journeys when absolutely necessary.

At the moment “there are no specific government guidelines at present” regarding riding, but the BEF advice recommends avoiding any activities that carry an increased risk of injury and adds: “If you must hack out, be mindful of other people walking, cycling and running, and keep the two-metre distance [from other people].”

The British Equestrian Veterinary Association has advised its members to stop routine procedures, including pre-purchase examinations, routine dentistry, routine health checks, poor performance/mild lameness examinations and six-monthly flu vaccinations. Telephone or video consultations should be used when feasible.

Vets will still be maintaining a 24-hour emergency service for accidents and illness.

The statement also says: “Routine stud/reproductive work raises particular questions. On the basis of the government’s advice, and despite the ability to mitigate risks, we are currently struggling to see how this type of service is essential for animal welfare. However, we appreciate that this has far-reaching implications beyond the veterinary profession, and we have sought guidance from government and are in discussion with the breeding industry; we hope to provide further direction soon.”

The Farriers Registration Council confirmed on Tuesday 24 March that its farriers can continue to provide their essential services to equines, using their judgement as to matters of priority and/or urgency, with the following provisos:

  • Any farrier showing the symptoms of coronavirus should immediately follow the NHS guidance on Covid-19
  • Farriers should follow the guidance on social distancing, maintaining the 2m distance between humans at all times
  • Farriers should regularly wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, and clean their tools and equipment, including between consultations

Advice from WHO states there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, but there is “no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit Covid-19”.

“Covid-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly,” states the latest WHO guidance.

“WHO continues to monitor the latest research on this and other Covid-19 topics and will update as new findings are available.”

Employers have a duty of care to their staff and the government is also encouraging everyone to wash their hands frequently to reduce transmission of the viris. The British Horse Society recommends following and publicising the latest government advice all who have access to a yard, as well as yard owners updating the business’s risk assessment as required, based on footfall and venue-specific activities.

It also urges yards to ensure there is sufficient access to appropriate working hygienic hand washing and drying facilities and to provide sanitiser at key location points on the premises.

If staff or liveries on the yard need to self-isolate, it is vitally important that they do so. Be prepared, speak with your yard owner about contingency plans and practise good biosecurity at all times. Communication is really important and the British Horse Society has some useful information on what to consider when making a contingency plan here.

This includes yard owners thinking about freelance cover and giving current staff additional training to cover roles that might not be part of their current job.

On 18 March, the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) called for all “organised equine activity” to cease, which is based on the government guidelines surrounding non-essential travel. The full statement can be found here. A BEF spokesman also confirmed to H&H that this would include things such as travelling for training or clinics, although transporting a horse to a veterinary facility for emergency treatment would be acceptable.

“We continue to strongly recommend against any unnecessary travel, which includes transporting your horse for anything other than emergency care. Travel to competition or training venues, having a coach travel to your yard, having a lesson at a riding centre or riding in large groups is not advised,” said the most recent statement, issued 24 March.

Of course many businesses, venues and self employed trainers are going to be in a financially volatile position as a result of these restrictions, but these measures are not about denying them business but protecting the health of the vulnerable and alleviating pressure on the NHS. Some trainers are offering training online or via video link, while it might also be an option to support your trainer by buying a chunk of lessons now to use at a later date.

It may well do — you must follow government health advice even though it is a worrying time when freelancers are not entitled to statutory sick pay. However, yards may need freelancers to help cover staff sickness and/or self-isolation periods, plus the government has announced some measures in a bid to ease financial pressures. These include making it easier to apply for Universal Credit. The situation is changing rapidly and the British Grooms Association has more advice here

The government has announced it will help businesses with fewer than 250 employees by funding two weeks of statutory sick pay. Make a contingency plan as to what to do if staff do need to have time off — the British Horse Society and Equestrian Employers Association have some helpful advice here and here

All employees have a right to emergency time off during working hours where a dependant is concerned. The amount of time should be reasonable to the situation (usually days rather than longer term) and there is no statutory right to be paid for this — whether you are or not comes down to your employer. More information can be found here

There are going to be alot of people who may have to sell their horses due to the financial crisis we find ourselves in as a result of the Coronavirus.  Unfortunately until such time that the travel ban is lifted it is not possible for prospective purchasers to come and view and try your horse.  It is also not possible to instruct a vet to do a pre purchase examination because all non emergency visits are being postponed until after the travel ban.

You can however still advertise your horse for sale or loan and try and find a suitable buyer with a view to them coming to view the horse as soon as the travel ban is lifted.  There are still alot of buyers out there but the market will understandably be reduced and therefore you would need to expect to sell your horse at a reduced value especially if you need to sell them quickly.

Selling or loaning your horse through Right Horse Right Home is a much safer way to find the best home as you will receive help with your advert from equine professionals as well as online applications from genuine serious buyers who will detail their riding ability, the type of home they have to offer and what activities they wish to pursue with their new horse making your job of identifying the best candidate so much easier.  Our system vastly reduces the stress associated with what can be a very difficult and emotional task, especially if it was not planned or expected.  Do register here and follow the steps to “List a Horse” and if you need further assistance, simply call us on 01844 342672.

Yes — the situation is changing all the time, but Boris Johnson and the chancellor have announced some measures to help those who will be impacted financially. Information from the government for employers, employees and businesses can be found here 

There are going to be so many horse owners with considerable livery yard bills and other horse related costs to cover,  who may also be laid off from work, or have their working hours cut who may well struggle to pay their bills.

In the meantime, keep your costs to an absolute minimum.

  • Turn your horse out 24/7 if that is at all possible.
  • Cut back on horse feed if the horse is not in work it may well not be needed, especially as the spring grass is coming through.
  • Get your farrier to remove their shoes and turn them away if that is possible for a few weeks until we know more about what the future holds.
  • Look at selling unwanted items through Ebay / Facebook  Marketplace

Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert has lots of advice here to give to those who are going to struggle through this very difficult financial period.

Any further questions, unanswered...

If you are a horse owner or livery yard owner, worried about how Covid-19 is going to effect you contact us and we can try and point you in the right direction.