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Coronavirus: should I wear a face mask while riding or at the yard?

As of Monday 11 May, the UK government recommends the wearing of a face covering in certain situations to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Consequently the number of online searches for face masks, and how to make your own, has shot up since.

So what does this mean for equestrians – should riders and owners be wearing a face mask or other face covering while riding, or caring for their horse?

In most scenarios, the answer is no, but you must abide by social distancing guidelines, and continue to wash your hands frequently.

The public in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are being advised to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces where you might be likely to come into contact with people from outside your household, or those you do not normally meet. The advice is different for those living in Wales, where the government is not recommending people wear face masks during the pandemic.

Examples of the sort of enclosed public spaces where it is advised to wear a mask include public transport, supermarkets or other shops, where it is much more likely you will come into contact with other people. In the main, this is unlikely to be the case on a yard, or while riding.

Exceptions may be indoor yards with less ventilation, or if you will be on the yard at the same time as others and unlikely to be able to keep more than 2m away – for example in small tack rooms, narrow yards or if the care of a horse necessitates more than one person attending to him at the same time. In these situations you should still try to stay 2m away from other people where at all possible, and remember to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.

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Evidence suggests that while a face mask or covering is unlikely to prevent you from catching the virus, it can help reduce spreading it to others if you are infected but asymptomatic.

Government advice across the UK is that masks do not need to be worn outdoors or while exercising, meaning you do not need to wear a mask while riding. However, you should ensure that you comply with social distancing rules while on board – that means hacking with no more than one person from outside your household and riding in single file.

The public should avoid buying medical grade masks, as supplies of these should be saved for frontline health and care workers. There are purpose-made masks available online, including from the makers of WOW Saddles, who have pivoted to produce two variations of barrier masks (above) that conform to AFNOR S76-001 level of filtering.

As well as a leather or synthetic mask with interchangeable and washable filters, WOW Masks have also produced an integrated, washable ‘sports’ mask, using breathable technical fabrics with an integrated filter. These are designed to be comfortable to wear during activity, which could include working on a yard.

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Alternatively, you can make your own face coverings at home using an old T-shirt or other cotton fabric.

We are continuing to produce Horse & Hound as a weekly magazine during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to keep our website at horseandhound.co.uk up to date with breaking news, features and more. Click here for info about magazine subscriptions and access to our premium H&H Plus content online.

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