We're all coping with Covid-19

Coronavirus may be a universal crisis affecting every one of us, but the impact is as varied as each of our individual circumstances.

The fast-paced and changing nature of the pandemic means we are all coping with unprecedented levels of uncertainty and anticipation despite huge volumes of information made available all the time. As we rally round to find ways of caring for our horses, ponies and donkeys during these Government restrictions, we must remember to support each other where we can and have patience.

There is some fantastic advice already out there for those of us who care for horses to help us interpret the guidelines for our situation, whether you keep your horses at home or on a busy yard. There is also guidance from the British Equine Veterinary Association for vets and guidance for those managing Livery Yards and equine businesses. We’ve summarised some of these below.

Meanwhile we are still taking welfare enquiries via email and our welfare vets are operational in line with advice from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. We would, however, ask that in light of the pressures we face caring for our over 1,500 residents, you are patient with us regarding any welfare concerns that you raise with us at this time.

Redwings’ tips for carers during the Covid-19 crisis:

  • Take your own health seriously. Rightly or wrongly we often put our horse’s health before our own. During these times, please monitor your own health carefully. You must self-isolate at any suspicion of infection. If you have an emergency and need a vet to attend your horse (some issues are being assessed digitally before sending a vet) – please do not put them at risk. We must minimise time outside the home and observe the social distancing and self-isolation requirements in the interest of each other’s health too. Everyone’s personal health and family situations are different and following the guidelines is as much about helping the vulnerable people we don’t know as it is about protecting the ones we do.
  • Support each other. There are some fabulous examples of spontaneous generosity from horsey people to help out in emergency situations. Social media and mobile networks can form rapidly to provide the safety net you might need if you’re unable to visit your horse suddenly or to coordinate daily checks. See what is out there in your area or offer your own skills. The digital world provides a host of opportunities for networks of horse owners to offer and provide care.
  • Communication is key. When forming a plan for your horse’s care with your yard manager, horse sharer or friend, be clear about what you need them to do. Write down your routine and be specific and share films and guidance online before they go. It might be worth taking screenshots or making a note of what you discussed to refer back to – remembering to share that with them if you have! Asking for images and videos of your horse, particularly if you are facing long term time apart from them, can be helpful and comforting. Think about the safety precautions that are second nature to you and particularly that are specific to your horse such as the order of tasks and wearing a hat and gloves. Check if the person is comfortable with the tasks you’ve asked of them and pay close attention for apprehension. Maintain regular ‘check-ins’ to see how they got on with specific tasks and provide guidance and encouragement when it seems appropriate. Phone use with horses can distract handlers so better to let them get on with the job and report back afterwards than to keep you and the horse in hand at the same time. Here's an example of a video you can make! 

  • Stick to urgent and necessary tasks and only those that you can do observing a two-metre distance from others. Communicating your horse’s needs during these times calls for difficult choices and certain routine care activities may need to be abandoned or delayed. Vets and farriers are restricting their services to emergencies only, which sets a precedent for us in terms of what we do with our horses.
  • Ask for help with dilemmas. We are all at different stages of our horse caring careers so to speak. We can’t all know all the solutions that might be available to help with our problem. For example, turning horses away may allow for fewer visits yet it may compromise a laminitic pony. To discuss a management problem or a dilemma you should call your vet, Redwings or another welfare charity. If you are being asked for advice on a dilemma yourself, remember to be generous to the person asking the question even if the solution seems obvious to you. This is a stressful time and we’d encourage everyone to be non-judgemental in their advice giving.
  • Minimise worries about welfare. If you care about horses, the implications of Coronavirus on horse welfare in the future is a concern we can relate to. The Coronavirus restrictions do have welfare implications for horses – both positive and negative – but we must focus on what is feasible to do for our horses in the present and what is within our control. We’re encouraging people to complete this survey which aims to understand the impact of Coronavirus on horse welfare. Perhaps you can view it as one practical action you can take to help us prepare for future crises of a similar nature.
  • Be patient and stay tuned. Be mindful that advice is changing as the situation does. We’re interested in your examples of how you coped with Covid19. Please share them via our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels.

The National Equine Welfare Council has a comprehensive overview of the advice including information to help when you’re considering calling a vet or farrier to your horse: http://www.newc.co.uk/

The British Equine Veterinary Association has this updated guidance for vets on their service during this time: https://www.beva.org.uk/coronavirus

The British Equestrian Federation has a host of clear advice including for those self-employed in the equestrian industry: https://www.bef.co.uk/News-Detail.aspx?news=self-employed-covid-19 

The British Horse Society is regularly updating its information for horse owners and yards: https://www.bhs.org.uk/advice-and-information/coronavirus-covid-19

These Horsemart blogs for horse owners and liveryyYard managers authored by Cheryl Johns from Livery List are also very informative: https://www.horsemart.co.uk/community/article/caring-for-your-horses-during-the-covid-19-lockdown

Horsemart for livery yard owners: https://www.horsemart.co.uk/community/article/livery-yards/keeping-your-yard-safe-during-the-covid-19-outbreak