A Period of Uncertainty
There is absolutely no doubt that in our modern times, COVID-19 has to be the greatest challenge the globe has faced. The World Health Organization head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says the number infected globally will reach a million within days.
There are now more than one million confirmed cases of the new coronavirus worldwide. Nearly 53,000 people have died and more than 210,000 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University. Half of humanity is now subject to some form of restriction on daily lives, whilst there is a growing concern in several countries about supplies of protection equipment for medical workers. Major global events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and equestrian events have either been postponed or entirely cancelled, whilst airlines and economies have come to a grinding halt. Coupled with the background of a near imminent mass global recession, these are certainly challenging and confusing times.
What does this mean for us horse lovers and horse owners? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infectious disease experts, and multiple international and national human and animal health organizations have stated that at this time there is no evidence to indicate that horses could contract COVID-19 or that horses would be able to spread the disease to other animals or humans. Phew, that’s some good news for us horse people.
However, as more and more countries have put in strict measures for social distancing, you will need to be vigilant. In most countries, you’ll only be allowed to leave your home for one of four reasons. 1) Shopping for basic necessities, such as food and medicine. This should be done as infrequently as possible. 2) One form of exercise a day – perhaps a run, walk, or cycle. This can be carried out either alone or with members of your household. 3) Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person. 4) Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and can’t be done from home.
The British Horse Society (BHS) explains that horse welfare is key, and therefore, “grooms or the sole carer for a horse should travel to provide care for horses. Where horses are kept in livery, the BHS advises that horse owners respect the protocol put in place by the yard owner or manager and work as a team to agree a care plan for your horse(s)”. Have a contingency plan in place with your yard owner should you be unable to get to the yard for any reason. This will ensure your horse is taken good care of even if you can’t see him yourself. This will help other liveries, your yard owner and staff know what your horse needs and when should you be unable to get up to the yard yourself. Buddy up with a friend at the yard and agree to help each other should either of you become unable to get down for any reason. If nothing else, top and tailing your yard routine will reduce the amount of time you spend in the company of others, helping you stay in line with social distancing.
We know horses must be exercised to avoid any activities that carry an increased risk of injury, such as jumping, fast work and riding a young, fresh or spooky horse. If you must hack out, be mindful of other people walking, cycling and running, and keep the two-metre distance. Lungeing, in-hand work and turn-out are good alternatives to ridden exercise. Ensure you have sufficient and sensible supplies in stock for your horse. The repercussions of panic buying, as we have seen in the supermarkets, do not help the situation. Ensure you have enough for an additional few weeks in case you have to self-isolate or are ill and unable to collect any supplies. Your local feed merchant or hay supplier may still be able to make deliveries but make sure you still follow the Government guidance on social distancing and hygiene.
We recommend against any unnecessary travel, which includes transporting your horse for anything other than emergency care. Travel to competition or training venues, having a coach travel to your yard, having a lesson at a riding centre or riding in large groups is not advised. Most sports bodies have cancelled or postponed group lessons and competitions. Please follow your governments guidance strictly.
You can’t plan for everything – and remember that as long as your horse is having his basic needs taken care of, that’s what matters most. Keep yourself safe and don’t take unnecessary risks. Most importantly, we will get through COVID-19 by flattening the curve! We at Cavago wish you well.