This advice and information is to support horse owners and those who care for horses during the Covid-19 outbreak. The BHS has received many questions from concerned owners who are understandably very worried as the Government implemented further restrictions at 20.30 Monday 23 March, to help combat the pandemic.
Please note, while the guidance is current at the point of publication, it may quickly be superseded following further government updates, or changes to the situation.
Follow the NHS & Government advice
Ensure you have sufficient hand washing facilities. After using shared yard equipment, such as wheelbarrows or the hose, wash your hands. Use an antibacterial spray to disinfect all shared equipment.
What about travelling to the yard now that only essential travel is allowed?
Horse welfare is critical and grooms or the sole carer (one person attending to the horse every day, for example if there’s joint carers/owners, share out the care of the horse on a daily morning/evening rota) 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 horse(s).
At this time, there is no requirement for owners to have documentation to travel, including having their horse’s passport to prove they are travelling to visit their horse.
Am I allowed to transport my horse?
Unless there is a specific welfare reason or veterinary emergency, transporting horses for reasons other than stated is unlikely to be classed as essential travel at this time.
Speak to your Yard Manager
Have they already drawn up a contingency plan in the event that horse owners or staff won’t be able to attend the yard due to self-isolation? Is there anything they would specifically like you to do to help prepare?
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 horse(s).
During this time there will inevitably changes to the yard routine and what can be provided by the yard owner. It is important that yard owners or managers and their clients continue to talk with each other and consult on any proposed changes.
- Yard owners may have to restrict access to the yard completely. This is likely if there are people classed as vulnerable living at the yard or if the yard owner and staff needs to protect themselves against infection.
- Where yard owners are able to allow access to the yard this is likely to be on a strict rota which maintains social distancing between clients and staff or yard owners. There may also be limitations to what you are able to do. You should avoid coming into close contact with others in tack rooms, kitchens and offices etc.
- Whilst there have been no government guidelines on whether you should ride or not you must consider whether this is absolutely necessary at this time and whether it is appropriate to put additional pressure on the NHS at this time.
- There have been some incidents where yard owners have changed the package of care for a horse e.g. from DIY livery to full livery. This should not be done without consultation with the horse owner. You must always refer back to what is states in your livery agreement. There is likely to be a notice period for changes to, or termination of, a livery package.
- If you are struggling to pay for your livery package it may be an option for you to downgrade the package e.g. consider grass livery if this is able to be offered. Make sure that any changes to your horses care are made gradually. You should take particular care when roughing your horse off that you are aware of the potential increased risk of laminitis or equine metabolic syndrome. If you are unable to pay your livery bill you may be able to negotiate a payment plan to spread your livery payments over a longer period.
Hopefully there are people on the yard who know you and your horse well. In many yards, it is common for horse owners to share the care of bring in and turning out.
Check that your buddy / buddies are covered by insurance if handling or riding your horse. If they are a Gold member of the BHS, they will be covered by our public liability insurance* (*terms and conditions apply).
Your yard buddy will need to attend the yard at different times to you so that you isolate from each other and reduce the risk of you both being ill at the same time.
Write a care plan for your horse
Write down your horse’s normal routine, if stabled the amount of hay given, any additional feed – if so how much, rugs, location of equipment etc. If your equipment is locked away, ensure your ‘buddy’ has a spare key or knows the combination codes to locks. Include details of your farrier and vet and how to contact them.
Do you need an exercise plan for your horse?
We are getting a lot of questions in relation to riding your horse, there are no specific government guidelines regarding this at present. We advise that it is not appropriate to put unnecessary pressure on the emergency services and everyone should make their own individual decision as whether riding is necessary at this time.
An appropriate exercise plan can include regular turn out, use of horse walker and ground schooling.
At this time of year adjustments may have to be gradually changed to management and feeding programmes, and any horses prone to laminitis closely monitored.
Learn more about horse care, behaviour & management.
Your BHS membership liability insurance is valid during the Covid 19 outbreak.
Have an emergency plan
Ensure your Yard Manager and / or buddies know what to do in the event of an emergency for your horse. Have your vet’s contact details clearly available. This is good routine practice to have in place, in the event that you are uncontactable, and a serious decision needs to be made for your horse such as referral to an equine hospital for potential colic surgery.
Animals and Covid19
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) the current spread of Covid-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission, and, to date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.
For further advice visit the British Veterinary Association.
Further information can be found here - World Organisation for Animal Health
Consider setting up a WhatsApp group with your yard buddy/buddies. Keep the lines of communication open such as any changes to your horse’s diet, which at this time of year may be applicable.
Keep up to date with your veterinary practice
Many veterinary practices are posting on Facebook their practices’ current policies regarding Coronavirus and visiting yards. If your horse needs a vet and you are self-isolating or ill, do not attend to help ensure the health of their staff. Many practices may be able to bring an additional practice staff member to hold your horse if no one is available at the yard.
In order to help comply with Government guidelines and help to reduce the spread of Covid-19, many veterinary practices are responding to emergency or urgent call outs only. The veterinary profession has expressed its understanding that some owners may be frustrated with the cancellation of routine appointments, but these vital measures to prevent non-essential travel and contact is needed to help keep everyone as safe as possible.
There is lots of useful information on this link to help you find out what type of care your vet can offer to your horse: https://www.bva.co.uk/media/3399/bva-guidance-for-veterinary-practices-on-covid19-march-2020.pdf
Equine Influenza Vaccinations
BEVA has advised that the six monthly equine influenza vaccination is stopped and that all other influenza booster vaccinations are stopped for one month: https://www.beva.org.uk/coronavirus. Veterinary organisations have acknowledged that they are all working together to develop further guidance for veterinary staff, but this will take time. They are currently in discussion to look at ways they can minimise the longer-term impact of temporarily reducing / stopping influenza vaccinations. Further updates will follow when they are available.
As there are now no mixing of large groups of horses e.g. shows and events, the risk of disease spread should be reduced, and we encourage all owners and industry staff to implement good hygiene practices to reduce the spread of disease.
Do you have sufficient supplies for your horse?
Do not panic buy horse feed and bedding. If people are responsible there will be enough for all those that need it.
Horse feed and bedding suppliers are being viewed as essential retailers along with pet shops. Feed and bedding mills are able to continue to produce supplies. You can travel to buy food and this includes animal feed. You might want to consider having sufficient supplies for two weeks, in case you need to self-isolate, but there is no need to stock pile feed and bedding. If your horse is now no longer in work you will need to reduce its feed intake.
Can my Farrier still attend to my horse?
Your farrier is best placed to discuss the potential need of rescheduling your next visit in relation to the specific, individual requirements of your horse. They may ask for photos of the current condition of your horse’s hooves to help with their assessment.
The British Farriers and Blacksmiths Association have advised their members, “Farriers provide a vital role in maintaining the welfare of many equines. It is our understanding that you may travel to work but please carefully consider if this is essential.”
Additional information is also available from The Farriers Registration Council.
If your horse is on prescribed medication, ensure you have sufficient supplies in stock. If you have any concerns, contact your vet practice.
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) ADVICE & INFORMATION FOR EQUESTRIANS
Please read our information and advice for horse owners and business owners during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak