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Coronavirus Restrictions: Advice for Horse Owners

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

In this blog we share advice from the British Horse Society, British Equestrian Federation, British Equine Veterinary Association and Farriers Registration Council regarding caring for your horse during the Corona virus pandemic.

 gillian higgins horses inside out horse gazing off to horizon

Riding Horses

Thinking about riding our horses, the British Horse Society have put out the following advice:

‘There are no specific government guidelines around whether we should still be out riding at present. Our strong advice is that it is not appropriate to put unnecessary pressure on the emergency services now or for the foreseeable future. It is incumbent on all of us to make an individual decision as to whether riding is necessary at all but our choices should be mindful of the potential impact for ourselves and others’.

Advice from the British Equestrian Federation.

The BEF advice issued on 24 March states:

“The welfare of horses, and other livestock, is still essential, making your travel as an employee, owner or volunteer to provide care valid under the current guidance. Please keep your own health and safety in mind, as well as that of everyone around you.”

The BHS concurs, saying on 24 March: “Horse welfare is critical and grooms or the sole carer for a horse should travel to provide care for horses. Where horses are kept in livery the BHS advises that horse owners respect the protocol put in place by the yard owner or manager and work as a team to agree a care plan for your horses.”

Advice for individuals who are caring for their horses

The BEF has issued the following advice for those providing essential care for horses, whether as owners, grooms or volunteers.

Going to the yard

  • Keep visits to a minimum without compromising your horse’s welfare – consider a buddy system with another livery

  • Go to the yard solo – no passengers, family or children

  • Change into clean yard clothes before leaving your house

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before leaving the house

  • Consider putting your horse on full livery if it’s available and financially viable

  • If your horse is on full livery, only make essential yard journeys. Keep in touch by phone, email or video call with the yard.

While at the yard

  • Respect any restrictions put in place by the yard owner or manager – they are for your safety and their own. It’s their business and/or home.

  • Wash hands thoroughly on arrival – take soap and water with you if the facilities aren’t available

  • Maintain social distancing with other liveries and avoid common areas, such as tea rooms, as much as possible. Keep at least two metres apart at any time

  • Use your own equipment. If you need to use shared equipment such as wheelbarrows or hosepipes, disinfect the areas you’re touching or wear disposable gloves

  • Avoid activities that carry an increased risk of injury and consider wearing an up-to-standard riding hat while handling your horse

  • Assess your horse’s diet, and reduce energy intake according to the reduced levels of exercise you may be providing

  • Limit the number of visitors to the yard, and ask that those who do visit closely follow hygiene and social distancing guidance

Leaving the yard

  • Keep your visit timely and avoid lingering – only carry out what’s necessary to ensure your horse’s welfare and wellbeing

  • Wash hands thoroughly before leaving the yard

  • If you have hand sanitiser that’s at least 60% alcohol, use it to clean your hands when you get into your car

Arriving home

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap straight away

  • Have a specific ‘yard visit’ towel to dry your hands on

  • Get changed immediately into clean, fresh clothes

  • Wash your yard clothes and the ‘yard visit’ towel

If you keep horses at home, many of these points, particularly around hygiene and clothing, should be observed.

Can I call the vet out to my horse?

The British Equestrian Veterinary Association (BEVA) has advised its members to stop routine procedures, including pre-purchase examinations, routine dentistry, routine health checks and poor performance/mild lameness examinations. Routine six-monthly influenza booster vaccinations should be stopped, and BEVA recommends all other flu booster vaccinations be postponed for a month, to be reviewed after this time, and is in discussion with regulatory bodies on how to minimise the impact of reducing or halting 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.”

Can my farrier shoe/trim my horse?

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

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