Riding during the COVID-19 situation

First of all, I need to start this post with a disclaimer. What is expressed on this blog is my personal opinions, recommendations, etc and NOT the views of any of the organizations I work with.

As someone who lives on a farm, rides daily and teaches others almost daily, being told to stay home is frustrating. For me personally, it was frustrating enough three weeks ago when I injured my knee and was told I’d be off a horse for 3-4 weeks minimum but at least then I could still teach, hang out with friends, etc. Now the Governor is restricting “gatherings” to 10 people and USPC says no activities with two or more people.

And as much as it pains me not to be out there every day with my students and clients, I am choosing to temporarily shut down for at least this week, probably longer. Why? Because the SCIENCE shows that if more people just stay home in the next two weeks, then we will be back to “normal” at a much faster rate.

Some have predicted that with the current rate of infection across this country, we could be looking at restrictions through August! So I have to ask the question to my fellow trainers and barn owners… is shutting down for even one week worth the possibly of being forced to close for another six months?

And just now on the news, I heard a statistic that says even three weeks of self quarantine will get us back to “normal” in a month or two but at the rate the US population is ignoring recommendations, we are looking at a much long lasting impact with significantly more deaths. And I 100% understand that even a weeks worth of shutting down has a huge financial impact on people. There will be businesses that can not bonce back from this and I am just praying that our government is working on ways to help these businesses.

So why then do all us horse people feel the need to go on like nothing is happening around us?

Please understand, I am not judging anyone here. And I know that trainers, like myself only get paid for the hours we work. I am facing a personal huge loss in income as I know many others in the industry are facing too. But just because riding typically happens outdoors does not mean we can continue with business as usual.

Here at my farm I’ve already paired down the number of people on the property and have instructed each of them to spray down doorknobs and such before leaving. If my leg was not in a brace, I would just tell everyone to stay home and I’d do it all on my own, but for at least another week, I need the help of others to make sure the horses are being properly cared for.

In terms of teaching, as of Tuesday of this week, I’ve stopped all teaching and will re-evaluate this weekend. There are a lot of good tips coming out on how to give virtual lessons and such and I know there are those out there staying 6 feet apart and carrying on, and it may come to that for me as well. But then I ask this question too… how do we do safety checks from 6 feet apart? How do we help a younger kid adjust a stirrup or hold a pony while they mount up from 6 feet apart? And what happens if someone falls? Do we help them from 6 feet apart?

At some point I’m going to figure out how to be able to teach privates and protect myself and my students and I would love to hear how others are able to do so. But in the meantime, I am begging my fellow trainers and barn owners to just take a breath, stop operations for even just one week and lets all get ahead of this instead of feeling like we are 10 steps behind every time the latest statistics are released.

For those who are riding, and I can promise you as soon as I’m cleared to ride I will be riding again too (here at my private farm away from other people), the team from Event Entries sent out a great list of tips. Please, please, please… if as a rider you need your saddle time, which I know I do, follow these tips.

Dear Riders,

As worldwide concerns about COVID-19 continue to grow, the Event Clinics team is here to help you navigate this time as much as possible.  

Our number one priority is the safety of our equestrian community.   

If you participate in or hold equestrian activities in the next 45 days, we ask that you treat the CDC/WHO guidelines for COVID-19 social distancing with the same commitment you would give strangles prevention protocols.  That includes ensuring:

·A minimum space barrier of 6 feet between yourself and other people at all times
·No more than 10 people in an area or present at an activity at one time
·   Sanitization of all common surfaces/items handled by multiple people

COVID-19 person-to-person transmission primarily occurs when an infected person sends out respiratory droplets via either sneezing or coughing.  Please practice and enforce the 6 feet social distancing rule until it becomes second nature to you.That means no hacking out horse side-by-side, no casual chats with friends in the tack room, and no standing next to one another watching a clinic.

While less common, a person can also contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.    The team who cares for your horses will be under considerable strain to sanitize surfaces and limit your exposure risk.  Expect that shared barn items like pitch forks, pencils, wheelbarrows, hoses, etc, are off limits for the next 45 days.
Before You Visit The Barn or Schooling Venue

  • Monitor your own health.DO NOT go to the barn or take your horse schooling if you have any COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, coughing, or unusual shortness of breath.
  • Feeling exhausted? Not sure if you “have something” or just a wine hangover? Take your own temperature and rule out a fever.
  • Do not go to the barn if you have been in an airport in the last 14 days.
  • Use the bathroom at your home, rather than the barn. The fewer areas you access around the barn, the easier it is on barn employees.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before you leave the house.
How To Visit Your Horse
If the facility that cares for your horse allows outside visitors, be considerate of the staff’s health risks and the 10 person rule. 

  • Do what you can to avoid showing up to ride at the same time as other boarders. Set up a group text and deconflict ride times. Remember that vets & farriers need to visit the facility too- and they count as part of 10 people.
  • Sanitize your hands upon arrival.
  • Avoid touching things such as door knobs, lockers, stall door latches and light switches unnecessarily. Limit your use of common barn tools such as pitchforks, etc. Limit your stall contact to just the one that contains your horse.
  • Avoid petting barn dogs and cats.
  • Ride your horse outside (in the sunlight) away from others as much as possible. While on horseback, practice the 6-foot separation rule.
  • Sanitize anything you’ve touched before you depart.
  • Smile at barn employees and thank them for their work. They are under a lot of stress right now and appreciate your support.
After You Leave
Keep in mind many equestrian businesses & service providers are struggling financially to cope with the pandemic’s impact.If a venue is graciously offering you distance lessons or schooling options, do what you can to pay it forward.

  • Post a nice note/facility photo on social media and tag the farm. Use #StrideForward on Instagram to help get the word out.
  • Pay schooling fees and board electronically, on time, as much as possible.
Thank your for your patience, support and understanding as the equestrian community collectively works to address these global health concerns.   If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us

Stay Safe & Hug Your Horse,

Team Event Clinics
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