The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the way that we work and the way that we live, with social spaces such as pubs, restaurants, bars, gyms and cinemas being asked to close, and most of the population who are able to do so now working remotely.
In the equestrian world, all racing competitions and most of the springtime events have either been cancelled or postponed until further notice.
With the advice from the government being to abide by rules of maintaining social distance and avoiding contact with others, those of us who keep yards and stables may be unsure of how best to handle the current situation.
We’ve put together a short list of tips and advice on how to prepare yourself and your horse should you need to go into self-isolation, should you fall ill, or should a wider restriction on public movement be put into place by the government.
Follow NHS and Government Advice
The advice we’ve been provided with since the outbreak of the coronavirus has been to wash your hands as thoroughly and regularly as possible in order to limit the chance of the virus spreading through direct contact.
With this in mind, it’s important to ensure that hand washing facilities with antibacterial soap are made readily available in the yard and stables, if this isn’t already the case.
It’s also advisable to disinfect any shared yard equipment, such as wheelbarrows, hoses and mucking-out tools, with antibacterial or alcohol-based cleaning solution after use and between uses, to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Ask for help
In order to respect the government advice on maintaining social distance, it may be a good idea to chat with your yard manager and the other horse owners in your yard to put a plan into place which allows everyone to access the yard at different times throughout the day, minimising the number of people in the yard at any given time.
You might even decide to share the responsibilities of bringing in and turning out between a few people. This is a great idea for maintaining social distance, and will also be helpful should you find the need to self-isolate, as you can be reassured that your horse will receive care and its living quarters be maintained as normal.
Remember to double check that anyone taking on the responsibility of looking after your horse has insurance in place that will cover them for riding or handling your horse.
Write out a care plan
With the number of confirmed cases spreading across the UK, it’s becoming more likely that the number of people self-isolating will also increase.
We never know when the time may come that any one of us could need to self-isolate. This being the case, it’s better to prepare for that situation now so that you don’t find yourself unstuck should it happen upon you later down the line.
Consider writing out a care plan for your horse which will be easily understood by another member of your yard, a friend or a member of your family. Include in it your horse’s normal routine (with exercise plan, if it will be possible to maintain); feed information, including amount of hay given along with any information regarding dietary supplements and medication; and the location of any equipment they will need to access in order to see your care plan fulfilled. Remember to give your nominated carer a key to your yard and/or equipment, if it’s locked away.
It’s also a good idea to maintain communication with other members in your yard via an online messaging platform, such as WhatsApp or Facebook, or even via email. You might like to set up a group chat between yard members so that everyone can stay informed on one another’s situation, and you will also be able to update each other on any changes in your horses’ diet or riding practices should you find a need to self-isolate.
Prepare for emergencies
Informing someone in your yard on the action they should take for your horse in the event of an emergency is good practice generally, as you could find yourself uncontactable for any number of reasons.
If you don’t currently have an emergency care plan in place, now is the time to remedy that, so that you can rest assured that someone will be able to look after your horse in the event of an emergency should you be absent from the yard, forced to self-isolate or if you fall ill.
In your emergency care plan, you should include the contact details for your veterinary practice, including out-of-hours contact information, so that anyone taking care of your horse will be able to act quickly in an emergency situation.
Consider contacting your veterinary practice to ask about any precautions they may currently be putting in place due to COVID-19. In line with government advice regarding social distancing, many veterinary practices will request that horse owners remain absent from any appointments, and will instead bring along an extra member of staff, should they be required, to steady or secure your horse during examination.
It’s important to note that keeping a good supply of any food, dietary supplements, medications or equipment is not the same as allowing your purchases to be fuelled by panic.
It’s a good idea to try and make sure you have enough supplies stocked up for an additional few weeks in case you have to self-isolate or are taken ill, but it’s equally important that you’re considerate of others when shopping and only buy the supplies that you need.
As responsible citizens, it’s important that we continue to support our NHS by staying indoors as much as possible, drastically reducing all direct contact with anyone out of the home in order to prevent the spread of the virus and help to reduce the strain placed upon our National Health Service.
With this in mind, riders are advised to ride as little as possible and not to take any unnecessary risks. Should you be involved in an accident and find yourself injured as a result of riding irresponsibly, your need for medical assistance will place further strain on NHS staff, including paramedics.
As the ground is now drying up and the milder weather brought along by Spring is now upon us, many horse owners are now considering letting their fit horses down and turning them out. This is an efficient and practical alternative to riding, and should be considered wherever possible.
Since the lockdown came into play, some livery yards have closed their doors to their clients and are now acting as primary carers, taking over the sole responsibility of the horses in their facilities. This is down to the discretion of the yard owners for the safety of their staff and families. We are in unprecedented times and, working together, we all hope that we can stop the spread of the virus and help the yards to open their doors again as soon as possible.
If you are using your own facilities at home
If you are not a member of a shared yard and have your own equestrian facilities at home, the advice listed above will still be applicable to you. It’s important to make sure that you are able to wash your hands and disinfect any equipment as regularly as possible, so you should consider putting hand-washing facilities and cleaning solutions into place and making them easily accessible.
Equally, you will also need to be prepared should you fall ill and be unable to take care of your horse, so you should consider adopting the same planning procedures as mentioned above in order to ensure there is someone else who is able to step in for you, and that they have the knowledge required to maintain your horse, specific to your horse’s needs.
If you are the owner of a yard and you currently have a team of staff in your employ, similar procedures should be in place for the protection of grooms and yard staff.
An update on our services in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
Following the outbreak and the cancellation of many equestrian events throughout the calendar, we have been asked by a number of private clients if we’re still able to carry out works to the arenas they have at home, as many horses will be grounded and being kept in work on clients’ private yards until restrictions are lifted.
As the work we do is quite solitary and allows for our ground workers to keep social distance from clients, and even from one another within their own teams, we would like to assure our customers that we will still be able to carry out any required works and installations at this present time.
Click here for a list of top tips on how to keep your surface in tip-top shape whilst working your horse at home, or contact our team on 01282 834970 if you have any queries.