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Tips to Balance Social Distancing & Your Equestrian Business Operations

In partnership with Event Clinics, we’re bringing you content to help you navigate these unprecedented times brought about by COVID-19. In this blog, Event Clinics’ Tara Swersie details ways to help your barn or business thrive.

Photo by Natasha Sprengers-Levine.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our equestrian community, our thoughts are with those affected by the virus and those on the front lines of the fight to stop it.

We also realize equestrian businesses across the industry have been hit hard financially by recent public health measures and event cancellations. Facilities are struggling to reconcile social distancing demands while their staff is overwhelmed, horses need daily care and uncertainty is the norm.

But for real, though! Photo: Bob Coglianese—MCT/Landov

Here are five areas where you can take action to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and still maintain a working equestrian facility. 

  1. Establish and Enforce General Guidelines: Barns are inherently dusty places that will cause the healthiest of riders to sneeze and cough.  Now is a good time to implement and enforce CDC’s recommended 6-9 feet of social distancing until it becomes second nature.  
  • Insist staff and clients practice 6 feet of separation, even if they are 100% convinced the other person is healthy. That means no hacking out horses side-by-side and no casual chats in the tack room. Social separation is a learned behavior that must be practiced, like safe distancing in the warm-up.
  • Email your staff & clients a letter that outlines your facility’s COVID-19 containment protocols.  Give instructions and reassurance on what they should expect on upcoming weeks as they follow your protocol. 
  1. Staff Care: Your staff is stressed and worried.  For most of them, this is the first time they are gong through something like this.  Make sure to talk to them and see how they are holding up.
  • Check if your team needs help coordinating online grocery purchases, or refilling time on their cell phones.  Many working students lack credit cards.
  • 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. Your staff will be under considerable strain to disinfect common surfaces and limit their exposure risk.  Be patient and ready to coach them on what to do. 
  • Locate a No-Touch Digital Thermometer and use it daily on your staff. It will  give you an objective read on a person’s health. Eventers are a tough bunch that often does not want to report when they are feeling slightly under the weather (Sometimes it’s just a hangover).
  • Send home ANYONE with a fever. CDC assesses people with COVID-19 are most contagious when showing symptoms.  Symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath generally appear 2-14 days after exposure, with nearly half of the people with the virus showing symptoms after the first five days. 
  • Train your staff in how to sanitize their hands and barn items throughout the day.  Ask your vet if they have any disinfecting efficiency tips to share…they’ve probably been through a strangles scare or two.
  • Place soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, wipes and other cleaning materials in the tack room, bathroom, and common areas. 
  • Set times throughout the day to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Take pictures and post on social media. (Might as well get PR mileage!) 
    Use #StrideForward to get the word out.
  1. Managing Lessons/Clinics/Schoolings
  • Postpone or cancel all large gatherings of 10 or more people, per CDC guidance. That means no barn parties, no horse shows, no happy hours. (Sorry!)
  • Move activities outside as much as possible. It’s easier to keep rider separation in a wide open field.  Bonus: The coronoavirus does not like sunlight.
  • If you decide to host lessons, clinics or similar equestrian activities, limit groups to four (4) or fewer. Have riders stay in separate areas of the ring.
  • Schedule 15-minute blocks between lessons/ groups to help limit how many people are present at the same time.
  • Do not allow auditors, or only permit them outside. 
  • Use e-payment tools to collect payment.  There is indication the coronavirus can survive at room temperature on paper (checks, liability forms, etc) from anywhere from 4 hours to 5 days.  We like PayPal & Venmo.   
  1. Around the Barn 
  • Quarantine your common areas off from visitors as much as possible, such as the rider lounge, viewing room, etc.  
  • Close your indoor and/or limit the number of riders allowed in a ring at the same time. Designate outside areas to ride, with proper space between horses.  
  • Coordinate barn access so your boarders don’t all show up at the same time to ride.  Between vets, farriers, boarders, and normal staff you can quickly get 15+ people working with horses in the same area.
  1. Sanitize Communal Surfaces & Objects: Be kind to your neighbors and work together to implement your COVID-19 disinfection protocols with the same seriousness as you would a strangles scare.

 

  • Minimize the number of people touching common surfaces. That means no common writing tools, no boarders using the office phone, barn pitchforks, etc.
  • Make a list of items handled repeatedly throughout the day. Set a staff chore schedule for regular disinfecting of items such as stall doors, gates, crossties, microwaves, refrigerators, sinks faucets, doorknobs, and toilet flush levers. 
  • Keep doors open to limit doorknob interactions. Have gates handled by a designated person to minimize the number of hands that touch it.
  • Have clients tack up their horses in their stalls rather than use a common grooming/ crosstie area.

Above is by no means an all-inclusive list, but it should answer many of your questions.  If you have suggestions or additions, feel free to contact Event Clinics. Our number one priority is the safety of our equestrian community.  In partnership with Eventing Nation, we’ll continue to post updates as they become available.  

Stay Safe & #StrideForward,

Team Event Clinics

COVID-19 and Best Practices for Your Equestrian Activities

We are happy to share this note from Tara Swersie, CEO of Event Clinics, about what you can do to incorporate COVID-19 protection protocols into your equestrian activities.

As worldwide concerns about COVID-19 continues to grow, our #1 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:

  • A minimum space barrier of six 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
  • Disinfecting 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 six feet social distancing rule until it becomes second nature to you. That means no hacking out horses 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 disinfect common surfaces and limit your exposure risk. Expect that shared barn items like pitchforks, pencils, wheelbarrows, hoses, etc. are off limits for the next 45 days.

Keep In Mind

Many equestrian businesses and 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. #StrideForward

  • 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.
  • Be as sensitive as possible to their health risks and staff exposure concerns as you possibly can be. Horse people are stoic, not invincible.

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 your home.

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/service providers. Remember that vets and farriers need to visit the facility too — and they count under the 10 person-rule.
  • Set up a group text and deconflict ride times.
  • Disinfect (wash/sse Sanitizer) 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(s).
  • Avoid petting barn dogs and cats.
  • Ride your horse outside (in the sunlight) away from others as much as possible. It’s great for your spirit, plus the virus doesn’t like sunlight.
  • While on horseback, practice the 6-foot separation rule.

Before You Leave The Barn

  • Disinfect 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.

Thank you for your patience, support and understanding as the equestrian community collectively works to address these global health concerns. In partnership with Eventing Nation, we’ll be publishing updates as they become available.

Stay Safe & Hug Your Horse,

Team Event Clinics