Coronavirus in horses
There is no current evidence that horses can be infected with the new coronavirus or be carriers of the virus.
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 other bacteria, too.
How can I look after my horse with the new stay at home measures?
New government advice means that we are currently restricted to one form of outdoor exercise per day. Many are now having to consider how best to look after their horses during this time.
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 phone ahead and keep up to date on your yard rules.
Rough your horse off
You may want to consider, for both yard horses and those on private land, roughing them off as an option, and putting them out to grass.
It’s now warm enough for your horse to cope with being outdoors permanently and this will make caring for them during these difficult times a lot simpler.
Your horse’s weight will need to be monitored carefully if you choose this approach. Spring grass is starting to come through and too much grass can lead to laminitis.
Visiting your horse
The Prime Minister has announced that for a minimum of three weeks from the evening of Monday 23 March, the British public may only leave their homes for limited necessary reasons.
One of these reasons is “for one form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household”. This exercise does include checking in on your horse.
If possible, it’s a good idea to join up with others at the same yard or with friends and family, if your horse is privately stabled, to create a rota for visits.
A rota system can allow for greater flexibility so that one person checks on multiple horses at a time. Sharing responsibility between you can increase the number of visits your horse receives to twice a day instead of once, giving you days off so that you can look after yourself too.
If your horse is kept on your own premises, then you will have more freedom to check on them when you want. This only applies with the new stay at home measures and not if you’re self-isolating. Those self-isolating will need to ask a family member or friend to look after their horse for them.
Can I ride my horse as my one form of exercise?
During this time, we would ask you to consider not riding your horse.
There is always some level of risk involved in riding and, in the unfortunate event that you have an accident on your horse, a response to that accident may currently be a lot slower than usual.
It’s important that we all do our part for now and lessen the pressure on our NHS.
Can a farrier visit my horse?
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, with DEFRA confirming that registered farriers need to continue in their roles during this time.
British Farriers and Blacksmiths Association (BFBA) advise that unnecessary travel should be avoided and that registered farriers need to adhere to a new traffic light system which 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.
Will my vet still be able to visit my horse?
Vets are now working on an emergency care basis only, along with providing urgent prescriptions.
Routine visits to horses, which include vaccinations and general health care, need to be discussed with your vet directly for guidance on the best course of action if your horse’s vaccinations will expire during this time or if they need vet care.
Different vets are running varying levels of service during this time, so it's important that you check with them directly.
What can I do to prepare in the event I need to self-isolate?
Right now, the most important thing you can do is to have a plan in place in case you need to self-isolate.
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:
- where equipment is stored (and keys/codes if needed)
- any medication
- vet’s contact details
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.