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

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