By Holly Clanahan
If the growing COVID-19 situation has you stressed, thank your lucky stars that you have horses in your life. The great outdoors – and more specifically, the barn – is a good place to be right now. And from the back of a horse, you can outrun most all of your anxieties.
But we can’t forget that we are living through a pandemic, and we do need to take precautionary measures even while we enjoy our horses. We’ve compiled some preventive tips here to keep everyone safer, courtesy of LMBEquestrian, Event Clinics, the British Horse Society and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
If Your Horses Are at a Boarding Facility
LMBEquestrian in Austin, Texas, has enacted these protocols to reduce the risk of contagion to students and boarders:
- All students who are not boarders or lessors of horses at the farm will meet instructors at the arena at the time of their lesson. Trainers will be responsible for tacking and untacking horses, as well as cleaning and disinfecting all communal equipment before and after each lesson. All communal reins are rubberized reins, to make for easier disinfecting.
- All students must supply their own helmets and gloves.
- All private lessons are now 45 minutes long, with a 15-minute padding before and after each lesson to allow time for trainers to tack, untack and clean.
- Trainers’ schedules are now staggered so that multiple lessons don’t start at the same time.
- Boarders and lessors are the only people allowed at the barns at this time. We strongly urge you, if you don’t already own your own brushes, to purchase an inexpensive grooming kit to keep in your tack box.
- Wear your riding gloves, avoid touching your face, wash hands regularly and avoid close contact with other people.
Owner Lauren Baggett says she has ordered extra hay, feed and medications to stay ahead of any potential shortages, and she asks that anyone who is feeling sick should not come to the barn, knowing that their horse will be well taken care of by barn staff.
The Event Clinics website offers more tips, including a reminder that the CDC/WHO guidelines for COVID-19 social distancing should be regarded “with the same commitment you would give strangles prevention protocols.” Here’s more from that site:
- Keep a minimum space barrier of 6 feet between yourself and other people at all times. That means no hacking out horses side-by-side, no casual chats with friends in the tack room and no standing next to one another watching a clinic.
- Allow no more than 10 people in an area or present at an activity at one time.
- Disinfect all common surfaces and items touched by multiple people. And if this isn’t your responsibility, remember to lighten the burden for those who do handle it. Limit what you touch, and expect that shared barn items like pitchforks, pencils, wheelbarrows, hoses, etc. are off limits for the next 45 days.
If You’re Taking Care of Your Own Horse
The British Horse Society offers tips for boarders who do self-care or owners who keep their horses at home.
In case you have to self-quarantine or are laid low by the virus itself, do you have a buddy who can take over your horse-care duties? If they will be riding or handling your horse, are they covered by insurance? Make these contingency plans now, before they’re actually needed.
Write down a care plan for your horse, including his feed, turnout and exercise schedule. Also make sure your buddy knows what to do in case your horse has a health emergency and you cannot be contacted.
As the BHS reminds us, panic buying doesn’t help anyone, but you need to make sure you have enough horse feed, medication and any other supplies to last a few weeks.
Keep the lines of communication open with your buddy or others who are helping out. Consider setting up a WhatsApp group.
Seeing the Vet
You’ve likely seen many small-animal clinics offer “curbside service” where a vet tech comes to your car to pick up your dog or cat and takes the pet inside to be treated. It’s not that simple for horses, but equine practitioners have their own set of best practices. Here are a few from the American Association of Equine Practitioners, an AQHA alliance partner:
Require hand sanitization for all clients entering and leaving a clinic or hospital.
Institute for staff a no-handshake policy with clients and visitors, as well as with each other. Hand sanitization between all client interactions should be required.
Limit the number of individuals attending an appointment to one owner or handler per horse. Additional owners can be asked to join the appointment via FaceTime or speakerphone.
Conduct telemedicine rechecks for patients when possible.
The spread of the COVID-19 virus has impacted many aspects of AQHA business. As always, we value our horses, members and employees and are making decisions based on their best interests. We’re posting continually updated press releases about the changes.
For updates on AQHA-sanctioned shows cancelled due to COVID-19, refer to www.aqha.com/covid19-show-updates for up-to-date information.
Remember What It’s All About
With these precautions in place, don't forget that horses are intended to take stress away! Here’s a final word from Lauren: “Enjoy the peacefulness of being around horses and fresh air during these challenging times. Best of luck to you guys, stay safe and let’s be thankful we are in this industry and get to spend our social distancing with a horse.”