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Advice for horse owners in England during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Thursday 28 May, restrictions from Monday 1 June will be eased further in England. Therefore, the advice detailed below is applicable to ENGLAND only.

Advice for horse owners in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is available here.

This advice and information is to help support horse owners and those who care for horses during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Please note, while the guidance is current at the point of publication, it may quickly be superseded following further government updates, or changes to the situation.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

Although restrictions have eased, we must all be vigilant to maintain our social distancing with people outside of our household.

Ensure you have sufficient hand washing facilities. After using shared yard equipment, such as wheelbarrows or the hose, wash your hands. All shared equipment will need to be disinfected.

How to avoid catching or spreading the virus

Useful websites:

 
Travel to the yard

Horse welfare is critical and travel to the yard is essential. You may now increase the amount of time you spend outside exercising and can now travel to an outdoor space irrespective of distance.  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?

Yes, you are now able to transport your horse in England.

The BHS strongly advises to complete safety checks on your trailer/lorry before setting off on your journey, which is especially important as vehicles have not been used for many weeks. Further details are available here.

Those travelling in the vehicle must be from the same household to maintain compliance on social distancing. 

Horses can now be transported around the UK. In the Scottish Isles, non-essential travel to and from the islands continues to be discouraged to prevent spreading the virus to more remote communities and ferry capacity will remain restricted. 

If you are transporting your horse for exercise, ensure that the location has no horse riding / carriage driving restrictions currently in place before travelling. 

In England, horses can be transported to a venue for facility hire. If you are having a group lesson, including your coach, there should be no more than six people. 

The Government has issued, Coronavirus (COVID 19): safer transport guidance for operators, which may assist equine transport companies with their policies and risk assessments. 
 

Speak to your Yard Manager

It is important for yards to maintain their contingency plans in the event that horse owners or staff won’t be able to attend the yard due to self-isolation or illness.

If horse owners are planning to go abroad, it is essential to make provisional plans in case the Government advises that self-isolation is required for those returning from specified countries. Therefore, it is important horse owners ensure there is an additional 14 days care cover plan in place in case Government announcements are made, for example the self-isolation requirement announced for those returning from Spain.

It is important that everyone on the yard, complies with the social distancing rules and guidelines set by the yard manager to protect all staff and clients. It is vital that yard owners or managers and their clients continue to talk with each other and consult on any proposed changes as some lockdown restrictions have been eased.

  • Rotas may still remain in place to ensure social distancing between clients and staff or yard owners. You should still avoid coming into close contact with others in tack rooms, kitchens and offices etc.
  • 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. Yard owners should review their Covid-19 risk assessments and are strongly encouraged to return clients to their original livery package ensuring social distancing is maintained.  
  • If you are struggling to pay for your livery package speak to your yard owner at the earliest opportunity. There may be options available to change your livery package or to set up a payment plan.

Livery yards that have been on full lockdown can now start to investigate the best way to re-open the yard to horse owners. This may include set times for when horse owners can attend the yard. It is important to maintain clear communication and consultation with owners to develop a plan. Those yards who are shielding vulnerable people living on the property may have to continue full lockdown measures. Other than this reason, the BHS strongly encourages livery yards on full lockdown to now complete risk assessments and begin to sensibly re-open to horse owners, who understandably are desperate to see their horses again.

If you are a BHS Approved Centre, please contact the Approvals Team on approvals@bhs.org.uk or 02476 840509 if you need any advice.
 

Buddy up

During the initial lockdown you hopefully had the opportunity to buddy up with other people on your yard, in the event that should you become ill or have to self-isolate, the care of your horse is provided for. The BHS strongly encourages horse owners to maintain their buddy groups as the Coronavirus is still a risk to all of us.

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).

We still recommend that your yard buddy attends 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 / emergency plan for your horse 

Write down your horse’s current routine and if any changes are made, ensure your buddy or yard owner are notified. 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. 

The BHS has produced a template care plan that can be used for the individual requirements of your horse. As this is a template, there may be additional information that you’d like to add for your circumstances.

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.

Download our Covid-19 care plan template.
 

Can I now ride/drive my horse?

Yes, the BHS is recommending that horse riding and carriage driving can resume. It is important that riders assess the risk of their activity and ride/drive where it is safe to do so and within their capabilities.

If your horse has not been regularly exercised, or has had several weeks off, it will be important to gradually return them to work. Advice on bringing your horse back into work to help prevent any injuries is available here

In England, hacking is permitted and in line with the Government guidance can be with members of your household, or with up to, but no more than 5 other people from outside your household. To help maintain social distancing, riders could hack in single file if they are from different households, and it is safe to do so. Further guidance to help ensure the safety of you and your horse is available here

If horses are on a shared agreement, individuals can between them, continue to care for and ride the horse but with additional precautionary measures. You should follow the guidance set by the yard manager especially complying with the yard rota. As the equipment is likely to be shared between individuals from different households, this will need to be cleaned when used. It is advised that gloves are worn wherever possible especially when using shared equipment.

 

Can I have a riding lesson on my horse?

If you want your coach to visit your livery yard to provide the lesson, it is important to speak with your yard manager to check that this is possible. Your yard manager may want to stagger the times that external professionals are on the yard, such as farriers, vets and coaches to limit the number of people at any given time. Guidance on social distancing should be followed for all lessons. 

Your coach will need to follow the guidance set out by the yard manager and complete their own risk assessment.

The riding school or venue will have carried out a risk assessment regarding the use of arenas for lessons if you ride at a riding school or take your horse to a hired facility for a lesson. 

Horse riding/driving and lessons/coaching of small groups up to six people (including the coach) who do not share a household can take place outdoors providing social distancing is maintained.

 

Viewing, buying and selling horses

There are many issues that require serious consideration at this current time regarding the viewing, buying and selling of horses; this includes:

  • Individual veterinary practices and vets will complete their own risk assessments for all types of procedures, including pre-purchase examinations. Ultimately, it is their judgement to decide if a procedure can be undertaken safely. Check with the veterinary practice to enquire if they are offering pre-purchase examinations. Buying a horse without a pre-purchase examination is a risk and not something the BHS would advise. 
  • In normal circumstances you would ask the owner / representative to show you the horse being ridden first, before you then get on. There is always a risk of riding unknown horses and at this current time the BHS advises all riders to consider the risk of their activity and ride where it is safe to do so and within their capabilities. If two different riders were to take turns and ride the horse, and they are not in the same household, appropriate disinfection of tack and equipment should take place after each rider.
  • As the Government’s advice for England now states that groups of up to six people from different households can now meet outdoors, it is possible for your coach or knowledgeable person to meet you at the yard to support you with the viewing of the horse. Remember to maintain social distancing of 2 metres between people from different households. 
  • If you are selling a horse, you must ensure that all tack and equipment has been appropriately disinfected. The above points regarding the ridden trial of the horse must also be completed. Wherever possible we should all be taking precautions to limit the number of people we encounter, and ideally there should be no other people within the vicinity of you and the potential buyer. You won’t be able to assist riders to mount the horse, adjust their stirrups etc. as this will breach the 2 metre social distancing guidelines.
  • If you are looking for a companion horse, rehoming from a charity may be possible as they begin to rehome non-ridden horses only. A benefit is that charity horses should have been assessed by a vet as fit to be rehomed for this purpose. Further details of rehoming charities are available from the National Equine Welfare Council. When viewing and/or collecting the horse, either from a charity or private seller, social distancing must be adhered to at all times. 

 

Advice for Road Users

The Government has issued travel guidance advice. This gives important considerations when traveling in all circumstances. As many horse riders are drivers this advice is useful to know, but also when you are considering travelling with you horse.

Governments travel guidance


Insurance

Your BHS membership liability insurance is valid during the Covid 19 outbreak.
  

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 directly transmit the virus to humans. In July 2020, Covid-19 was confirmed in a pet cat in the UK, but currently there have been no reports involving horses. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.  It is advised that people continue to wash their hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.
 

Keep up to date with your veterinary practice

Many veterinary practices are posting on their Facebook page and website 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 protect 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.

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) has published horse health guidance videos to help support horse owners during the Covid-19 outbreak. The videos cover a wide range of subjects and are available to view here.

The British Equine Veterinary Association’s (BEVA) current advice is that no equine veterinary procedure is automatically "off limits".  However, individual veterinary practices and vets will complete their own risk assessments for all types of procedures. Ultimately, it is their judgement to decide if a procedure can be undertaken safely, which your vet will discuss with you. It is vital that horse owners ensure that social distancing is adhered to at all times and follow the guidance of their vet if a visit takes place. If you have a nervous or fractious horse, for example they are needle-shy, it is important that social distancing isn’t compromised.  To prepare your horse for procedures and help improve the safety of the handler and your vet, BEVA have produced a series of ‘Don’t break your vet!’ videos.

Veterinary organisations have published guidance to veterinary practices. There is lots of useful information on the links below to help you find out what type of care your vet may be able to offer your horse, depending on the current policies of their individual practice:

 

Equine Influenza Vaccinations

Following the easing of the lockdown restrictions, veterinary practices are now able to carry out equine influenza vaccinations. Any horse that has missed their annual booster will be required to start the initial vaccination course again. Vets have acknowledged that they do understand the frustration that this may cause to some horse owners and many veterinary practices are offering discounts and free vaccinations to their existing clients who are in this position. With the recommencement of competitions, it is important to check the vaccination requirements with the show organiser or competition Member Bodies. Those organisations who require the six-monthly vaccination may provide a transitionary period for the vaccination to be brought up to date, for example British Dressage.

Farrier visits

The Farriers Registration Council has advised Registered Farriers that they may provide farriery services to equines with strict social distancing guidelines adhered to. 
 

Medication

If your horse is on prescribed medication, ensure you have sufficient supplies in stock. If you have any concerns, contact your vet practice.
 

Equine Physiotherapy

Equine therapist member bodies are advising and updating their members accordingly. It is likely that many can now return to gradually seeing all cases, including maintenance cases, with the normal veterinary referral or consent, providing social distancing can be maintained. Further details are available from:

 
Saddle and Bridle Fitting

The Society of Master Saddlers has advised its members that those who are able to return to work can do so in a reduced manner, seeing fewer clients per day, and applying risk assessments prior to and during the visit. In addition to comprehensive guidance for its members, Client Advisory Notes have been issued and are available to view here.

Government's Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice

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

 

WE NEED YOUR HELP MORE THAN EVER

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