There’s been a common thought going on over the past few weeks with the current global crisis over COVID-19; that being, what the h%$# 2020?!  As much as we asked 2020 to sit down and not touch anything, it seems as if that’s exactly what it’s asking of us right now.  While we cannot control everything going on in our current world, we can take control of how we handle this pressing situation.

The usual quarantine procedures are simply unavailable to people in the horse world.  No matter what global crisis may be going on the horses still need to eat and the stalls still need to be mucked.  I’ve been in contact with quite a few managers and grooms over the past few weeks, some of whom are leaving their winter circuit homes while others are staying put.  It’s hard to know how to handle such a crisis when parts of the country are shutting down completely whilst others are seemingly unaffected as of yet.

The good news is that as of now there is no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 from humans to animals.  The bad news is that we still need to be extremely diligent in protecting ourselves.  As of now, the CDC recommends social distancing, as well as washing your hands multiple times a day.  While we can’t necessarily stay locked away at home, we can still restrict our social interactions when not at the barn, and thus decreasing the likelihood of contracting COVID-19.

After quite a bit of research on the CDC’s expectations to counter human transmission, I looked into quarantine protocols for equine related viruses.  Tufts University has excellent guidelines that are available online for equine related viruses and how to contain them within your barn.  I’d like to believe a mixture of these parameters can help every barn keep COVID-19 at bay and ensure everyone that keeps the wheels turning stays happy and healthy.

1) Allocate Everything:

Down to pitchforks, wheelbarrows, feed & water buckets, grooming boxes and supplies, horses, tack, paddocks, grooming bays & wash stalls (if available).  The more we can limit the amount of people cross contaminating the surfaces we touch multiple times a day, the less risk we have of spreading the virus if a particular team member has contracted COVID-19, but may not be showing any symptoms yet.

2) Restrict Outside Traffic Flow:

Most places in the U.S. are down to 50% capacity or no gatherings of 10 or more people.  Limiting the amount of people in and out of the barn will significantly decrease the risk of contamination.  Whether it be no group lessons, scheduling clients at different times, or enforcing a no extra visitor policy; restricting the flow of people in and out of the barn is essential.

3) Sanitize Everything:

Any surface that you can think of that is touched by humans should be sanitized multiple times a day, i.e. doors, gates, stall latches, buckets, grooming supplies, pitchforks, wheelbarrows, brooms, etc. According to the CDC most common EPA-registered household disinfectants are appropriate. An alternative if household disinfectants are no longer available in your area is to add 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water to make your own disinfectant. If your particular job requires being in more than one barn a day, the sanitizing precautions are even more imperative to limit cross contamination.

4) Limit Transport:

All USEF and FEI sanctioned events have been postponed for 30 days (effective March 16, 2020.)  Unless there is a medical emergency, it is highly suggested to keep everyone tucked in at home and to not transport horses or staff unless entirely necessary.

5) Social Distancing

This step takes it out of the barn.  When you’re not at the barn, please be diligent about the places you go.  It’s just as easy (and cheaper) to grab a case of Corona [beer] at the grocery store and sit with a friend or two at home than taking your chances at the local watering hole.  We all deserve a good drink after a long day of work on top of the extra precautions that are necessary in this time, but once someone is exposed it’s all downhill from there and we ALL know what it’s like to have to work short staffed. Protect yourselves.

All of these precautions are necessary for the health of everyone, especially those that are essential to the function of our barns and businesses.  Though it is difficult, the protection of staff is of utmost importance and should be dealt with in the highest regard.  If everyone does their part, hopefully we will be able to move on from COVID-19 soon enough and return to our previously scheduled summer horse showing.  We wish everyone the best and good health during this difficult time.