Horse grazing with foal in a field

Coronavirus and horses

Our coronavirus information on this page is written in line with guidelines issued by the Westminster government for England. If you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, you may have to follow additional restrictions. Our advice is a guide for pet owners and should not be taken as legal advice. Alongside government advice, we are giving suggestions from Blue Cross experts to help pet owners apply the new measures to caring for their pets. We are updating this advice as frequently as possible, so please keep checking back.

Government guidance states that it is rare for an animal to catch coronavirus. If they do contract the virus, they often only show mild symptoms and are better within a few days.

There is limited evidence that coronavirus can pass from infected humans to animals such as cats and ferrets. However, this does not currently include horses.  As a precaution, you should:

  • wash your hands with soap before and after any contact with your horse, its food and bedding
  • avoid contact such as kissing or cuddling

Frequently asked questions

From 5 January 2021, you may only leave your home for limited necessary reasons. A necessary reason includes caring for and exercising your horse. However, some yards may have decided to close to visitors or have strict rules on the number of visitors, so check with your yard manager.

You should also adhere to the government’s social distancing guidelines and any national or local restrictions. This includes where you keep your animal in livery or on private land.

Speak with your yard manager

If your horse is kept at a yard, speak with your yard manager to understand the plans and any restrictions in place during this period. 

Visiting your horse

You are currently able to travel to care for or exercise your horse. Exercise is currently limited to once per day in England but is unlimited in Wales. You should follow social distancing measures and government restrictions at all times.

If your horse needs more than one visit per day, it’s best to speak with your yard to see what options you have and if you can share the load with others. However, if you are unable to buddy up then you can visit your horse to care for them more than once a day for welfare reasons.

You can ride your horse. This needs to be done following social distancing measures, any national or local restrictions and bearing in mind any risks involved. 

In England, you can ride or walk your horse to maintain their health and welfare. You should stay two metres away from others and wash your hands before and after contact with any animals.

You can continue to leave your house to provide care for your horse.

Always speak to your yard manager to understand the plans and any restrictions to visitors in place during this period.

If your horse is due a visit from your farrier, you will need to contact them directly to find out what services they are currently running.

Farriery is considered essential work, and Defra has confirmed registered farriers can to continue in their roles during this time. However, they may be prioritising farriery services  based on the welfare needs of your horse.

British Farriers and Blacksmiths Association (BFBA) advises unnecessary travel should be avoided, and registered farriers need to adhere to a new traffic light system. This details which visits are essential depending on urgency of hoof care.

In Wales, routine farriery and routine veterinary work, such as foot trimming, should be postponed where possible.

If your farrier visits, you must remain two metres apart and remember to wash your hands before and after contact with the horse.

Vets are open but many are working within government restrictions and may not be able to see as many animals as usual.

Revised guidance from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) means that some non-emergency visits, including 12 month boosters, may be possible – but vets will assess this on a case by case basis. Your vet will proceed if they consider the benefit to animal welfare to be greater than the risk to human health. 

The Welsh government advise that any routine vet treatments, such as foot trimming, be postponed where possible.

During any visits to your horse, your vet will need to adhere to the government guidance on social distancing, this may include asking to attend to your horse alone or at a distance from you.

You can help keep your horse safe with preventative measures for flies and specific things such as sweet itch.

You may be concerned with making a claim on your insurance. Normally, many policies become invalid if your horse is not up to date on routine care, such as vaccinations.

During this time, many insurance companies have agreed to take a flexible approach on policy requirements. The Association of British Insurers, which many pet insurance companies are members of, has said it recognises this is an unprecedented time and has advised insurers to be flexible where government restrictions mean owners are unable to get a vet to give their pet’s annual vaccinations and health checks.

Many insurers are also offering additional support through any claims to customers who are worried about the health of their pet during this difficult time.

If your horse is due their vaccinations, and you’re concerned as to how this may affect your policy, it’s best to call your insurance provider directly and discuss this with them.
 

The most important thing you can do is to have a plan in place in case you need to self-isolate.

Buddy-up

We recommend having another horse owner as an ‘in case of emergency’. You’ll be able to call this person if you become ill and you can act the same for them, like a buddy system.

This person needs to have the following care information for your horse:

  • feed
  • where equipment is stored (and keys/codes if needed)
  • any medication
  • vet’s contact details

Note: Your buddy will need to be insured if handling your horse.

Keep in touch

Speak with your yard manager to see if they have an emergency plan for anyone having to self-isolate and find out what information they need from you to make this run smoothly.

Stay in touch with friends connected to your yard to keep up to date on any changes to yard policies and to create a wider buddy system.

— Page last updated 07/01/2021

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