January 2021: A survey conducted by equine scientist Dr David Marlin, Dr Jane Williams (Hartpury University) and Dr Hayley Randle (Charles Stuart University, Australia) in October 2020 has revealed how the UK’s horse owners have been affected by the current coronavirus pandemic.
With a sample of over 1500 owners participating, the survey identified a number of concerns held by those who own horses including the impact of potential loss of income, becoming ill or having to self-isolate, the fear of increased livery costs as a result of future lockdowns and the possible restricted access to feed, drugs, farriers and physios which could seriously impede their horses’ welfare.
Over half of the horse owners who took part (51%) reported that the pandemic had had a negative effect on their physical health; dependent on personal circumstances horse owners stated that they had both increased and decreased opportunities for exercise and riding. While a significant 73% advised of a clear negative impact on their mental health. Illness, bereavement, financial worries, reduced social contact and increased anxiety and stress relating to who would be able to care for their horse in the event of an owners’ ill health or need to self-isolate, all featured highly on the list of anxieties.
Worryingly, the survey also unveiled the fact that while livery yards appear to have been strong on providing hand washing or hand sanitising facilities, the majority – especially DIY yards – have yet to put in place Covid-19 plans and many are failing to observe the standard measures prescribed by the government, designed to minimise the spread of infection.
Commenting on the survey findings, Dr David Marlin said, “Given the current surge in coronavirus cases and the emergence of the highly contagious new variant of Covid-19, it is imperative that private livery yards take immediate action and put in place the appropriate plans to ensure the facilities they offer are commensurate with the precautions currently being advised to all businesses. Owners need to be updated on the measures that are being put in place and given clear guidance on the revised protocols to be rolled out – and the importance of adhering to the new regime. This survey also demonstrates the need for owners to put in place their own Covid survival plan to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of their horse in the event of the need for physical or financial support should they become ill or if they are forced to self-isolate. This is no time for complacency – or for ‘Covid-fatigue’ to set in. It is vital that the equestrian industry steps up to the plate and plays a stronger role in trying to fight the pandemic. This survey also backs up the argument that horse welfare related activities – such as continued access to feed, drugs, farriers and physios – must remain exempt from any future quarantine restrictions.”