Every single person needs to do their part to help stop the spread of COVID-19, including those of us in the Equine industry. Coronavirus spreads from person to person very quickly and can also live on surfaces for at least 72 hours. We like to think that by being outside at the barn in the fresh air, we don’t need to be as concerned as we would be if we were sitting in a crowded restaurant. While the barn may allow you to stay six feet apart from others, it doesn’t mean that the shared brushes and feed scoops can’t transfer the virus when multiple people use them.
I would argue that the biggest issue with being at the barn is actually not the possibility of contracting the virus, but the risk of injury. No matter how well-behaved your horse is, freak accidents can happen at any point in time. Spain recently passed a law making it illegal to ride horses during this pandemic. The fear is that if someone falls and is injured, there may not be a hospital bed for them, or they will be taking a bed from someone in need. In Michigan, and in several other states, it is now a liability for barn owners to even have people on their property for the same reason. If someone contracts the disease or is injured on while on the premises, the owner can be held responsible and will likely be charged with a misdemeanor ($500 fine or up to 90 days in prison).
As hard as it is, and knowing we will lose money, we have to do our part to stop the spread of the virus. This means:
- No riding!
- No boarders
- No lessons
- No clinics
- No shows
- Limit the number of outsiders (vets, farriers, etc.) when possible
- Wear gloves
- Limit what you touch
- Disinfect everything after use!
Only regular staff members should be allowed in the barn; those that are needed to care for the horses on a daily basis. Even this is a risk, as people can be injured while handling horses on the ground, but we know the horses must be taken care of regardless. If you are someone that is still required to feed and care for the animals, do your best to minimize the risk to yourself. Instead of leading three horses in from the pasture, just take one. Use a chain on the young horse that still doesn’t understand personal space. Do everything you can to prevent yourself and others from getting injured.
If we all do our part, we can help stop the spread of COVID-19 and eventually things will go back to normal. Despite the effects closing the barn will have on your business, know that you are doing your part to help keep everyone safe. Lay low for a few weeks, keep your boarders updated on their horses’ health and continue caring for the horses as you normally would.
Stay safe, everyone!