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. In England, a three tiered system of local Covid-19 alert levels is now in place – medium, high and very high risk. If you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, you may also be subject to 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 or sign up to our coronavirus email updates.

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 no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans.

There is also no evidence to suggest that this coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) is circulating between animals in the UK. All available evidence indicates that the spread of coronavirus in the UK is due to human-to-human transmission.

You should, however, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling your horse as a precaution. This will protect against bacteria, too.

Frequently asked questions

You are currently able to visit your horse as often as you need to provide care for your horse, as long as you adhere to the government’s social distancing guidelines and any local restrictions. 

Speak with your yard manager

If your horse is kept at a yard, speak with your yard manager to see if they have any plans in place during this period. Some yards may insist on no visitors or have strict rules on number of visitors – so it’s good to keep up to date on your yard's rules.

Visiting your horse

You can exercise outdoors as often as you wish, while following social distancing measures and local restrictions.

This means that you can now visit your horse as many times as you need to provide care for them.
 

In England, a three tiered system is now in place. Every area will be classified as being on medium, high or very high alert - tiers one, two and three. This means you will need to follow local rules if you live, work or travel in that area.

  • Tier one (medium) covers areas with the lowest infection rates where basic national rules will apply.
  • Tier two (high) means that national rules, and some additional rules apply. This includes not being allowed to meet indoors socially if you do not live with them. You can still meet in groups of six outdoors.
  • Tier three (very high) means that, in addition to national rules, you are not allowed to meet socially with anyone outside your household or support bubble indoors or in certain outdoor locations, such as private gardens. You can socialise in groups of up to six in outdoor spaces such as parks, beaches and the countryside.

Wales 

Wales will be subject to a coronavirus firebreak from midnight on 23 October until 9 November. Those living within Wales must adhere to the following rules, which replace local lockdown guidelines: 

  • you must not meet with anyone outside of your household indoors or outdoors unless you must provide care for a vulnerable person
  • if you live alone, you may form an extended household with one other house
  • you can still exercise outdoors, but must do so alone or with a member of your household
  • all exercise should be carried out locally
  • travel from England to Wales and vice versa is currently not allowed, unless you have a valid reason
  • all restaurants, pubs and non-essential shops will close – though restaurants will be allowed to provide takeout services

Restrictions mean that you are unable to travel to a form of exercise ie to a beauty spot. This means you can only exercise your dog within your local area.  

Check restrictions in Wales for more information. 

Scotland

In Scotland, you should follow current stay safe guidance, avoid touching your face, nose and mouth, and wash your hands regularly with soap, including before and after contact with animals and animal products.

You can only meet people from one other household both indoors and outdoors, and you should always follow social distancing guidelines. If you're meeting another household inside or outside, the rule of six applies. Visiting people in their home is not allowed. 

Activities that are exempt from these restrictions, such as organised sport, and are open, will need to follow specific guidance for that activity. 

The Scottish government is also asking people to think about whether you need to travel to, from or through the Central Belt. Where it’s necessary, plan to travel safely.

Check local restrictions in Scotland for more information.

Northern Ireland

From 16 October 2020 there will be additional restrictions in place in Northern Ireland, for four weeks. This will include:

  • no overnight stays in private homes that don’t form a part of your social bubble
  • a reduction to social bubbles, with up to 10 people from two different households
  • no unnecessary travel
  • no more than six people to gather in a private garden from no more than two households
  • limiting gatherings outdoors to 15 people, unless this is a part of a sporting event. When meeting outdoors, social distancing measures must be followed, with the two meter rule in place in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Agriculture , Environment and Rural Affairs states that, ‘there are no restrictions on the use of animal care services or on training or exercising animals during the pandemic.’

Check restrictions in Northern Ireland for more information.

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

One to one lessons can take place in outdoor environments. The trainer can either travel to you or the other way around. But check whether any local restrictions are in place for non-essential travel. Always keep two metres distance between you and the trainer and follow other safety guidance eg not touching your face. Also avoid touching surfaces or sharing equipment.

Due to a national lockdown in Wales until 9 November, you should only ride your horse in your local area. One to one lessons cannot take place during this time and you can only exercise with a member of your own household.

Government guidelines in England allow you to travel as part of your exercise, which is no longer restricted to once a day. This includes travelling to your horse to care for them and transporting your horse from A to B. However, check local restrictions on non-essential travel before setting off.

In Wales, if your horse is too far away to walk to, you may drive to your horse to care for their needs.

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

Welsh guidelines state that you should only seek vet treatment for your animals if it's urgent and can't wait until after 9 November, when the national lockdown ends.
 

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 26/10/2020

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