Coronavirus Q&A: horse riders, businesses and employees — all you need to know

  • This Q&A is designed to help answer some of the questions those living and working in the equestrian world may have during the current situation. We will endeavour to update this with any fresh questions and new information that comes to light as the situation develops...

    England has moved to “Plan B” coronavirus restrictions following the rapid spread of the Omicron variant across the UK.

    This is not another lockdown. Sport can continue and shops, restaurants, pubs and bars can remain open. But there are new measures in place to mitigate the spread.

    The key points to be aware of are:

    • Face coverings are compulsory in most public indoor venues as of today (10 December), with exceptions for places where it is not practical to wear one (eating, drinking or exercising)
    • People should be using lateral flow tests, particularly before entering high-risk settings involving others that they wouldn’t normally come into contact with, or when visiting a vulnerable person
    • From Monday (13 December), those who can will be advised to work from home
    • From Wednesday (15 December), the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS app will become mandatory for entry into places where large crowds gather. This includes unseated indoor events with 500+ attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000+ people and any event with a crowd of 10,000+. People will need to show proof of two vaccine doses via the app; proof of a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted. Racecourses and the London International Horse Show are included in this.
    • All adults who are able to be vaccinated are encouraged to do so

    The full restrictions for England are on the Gov.uk website. Rules vary to some extent in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (click on the country for more details).

    So what do the current restrictions in England mean for horse owners and those working in the industry?

    Can I ride my horse?

    Yes, you can. This is not a lockdown and sport – including riding – is able to continue.

    My horse is on DIY livery: am I allowed to care for him?

    Yes. Regular handwashing and biosecurity continue to be advised. The Government is asking people to consider their own risks when taking into account close contact with others.

    How should I prepare in case I fall ill and can’t care for my horse?

    It is law that anyone with a positive test must self-isolate for 10 days if they test positive. Rules surrounding close contacts vary depending on vaccination status and the variant. All close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Omicron must self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status. Click here for the full NHS self-isolation guide
    Previous British Equestrian advice from earlier in the pandemic recommends making a plan with your yard owner or manager, or your fellow liveries, for what will happen if you’re unable to get to the yard.

    The BHS recommends all owners prepare a care plan for each horse, so a friend or member of yard staff can take over your horse’s care if necessary. This should include things like which rugs he wears, what he eats, any medication, where you keep your equipment and his normal routine.
    Other tips include ensuring you have sufficient supplies and keeping in touch with your fellow liveries and yard owner through a WhatsApp group.
    For more advice, click here.

    My horse is on full livery: am I allowed to go and ride him?

    Yes, you can. You may also use the arena at your yard and travel your horse for competition, training and leisure riding.

    Are we allowed to hack out under the current restrictions?

    Yes you can (see point above: “Can I ride my horse?” for more details).

    Can I call the vet, farrier or other healthcare provider out to my horse?

    Yes, you can. Again, provided Plan B rules are followed. This is not a lockdown.

    Should there be extra biosecurity measures in place on yards at this time?

    Employers have a duty of care to their staff and the Government is also encouraging everyone to wash their hands frequently to reduce transmission of the virus. The British Horse Society recommends following and publicising the latest Government advice to all who have access to a yard, as well as yard owners updating the business’s risk assessment as required.

    It also urges yards to ensure there is sufficient access to appropriate working hygienic hand washing and drying facilities and to provide sanitiser at key location points on the premises.

    What will happen if the grooms on the yard have to self-isolate?

    If staff or liveries on the yard need to self-isolate, it is vitally important that they do so. Be prepared, speak with your yard owner about contingency plans and practise good biosecurity at all times. Communication is very important and the British Horse Society has some useful information on what to consider when making a contingency plan here.

    This includes yard owners thinking about freelance cover and giving current staff additional training to cover roles that might not be part of their current job.

    Are we allowed to transport our horses away from home?

    Yes, there are no restrictions on transport.

    Can I continue to have lessons at home or my livery yard?

    Yes, you can, in line with Covid-safe protocols.

    Can I travel to another place for competition or training?

    Yes, you can. Competition and training is allowed to continue. Venues may well have their own rules, so it is advisable to check these before you travel and respect their regulations.

    Can I have a lesson at a riding school?

    Yes, riding schools are open. The British Horse Society’s advice when restrictions ended this summer was for centres to take a “ cautious but sensible approach”. Be aware that individual centres may have their own restrictions on their own circumstances, so it is best to check when booking a lesson and it is important to respect the rules in place at each venue.

    What do I need to do before attending the London International Horse Show, going racing or point-to-pointing?

    All visitors to racecourses and the London International Horse Show will need a NHS Covid pass, which shows proof of double vaccination or negative lateral flow test. This is obtained via the NHS app. Government rules surrounding your own health and close contacts still apply. View the full London International Horse Show Covid rules.

    Point-to-points remain open to the public. The officials’ area should not be entered by anyone who has not got a reason to be there (i.e. officials and participants only), and everyone within it should wear a mask. In all other areas, individuals should take personal responsibility and wear masks if and when appropriate (for example in the betting ring if it is crowded).

    I’m a freelance groom, is this going to affect me and my income?

    It may well do — you must follow Government health advice even though it is a worrying time when freelancers are not entitled to statutory sick pay. However, yards may need freelancers to help cover staff sickness and/or self-isolation periods, plus the Government has announced some measures in a bid to ease financial pressures. These include making it easier to apply for Universal Credit. The situation is changing rapidly and the British Grooms Association has more advice here

    I run a yard — what happens if my staff cannot work through sickness or self-isolation?

    The Government has announced it will help businesses with fewer than 250 employees by funding two weeks of statutory sick pay. Make a contingency plan as to what to do if staff do need to have time off — the British Horse Society and Equestrian Employers Association have some helpful advice here and here

    What happens if my staff need to take time off to care for their children?

    All employees have a right to emergency time off during working hours where a dependant is concerned. The amount of time should be reasonable to the situation (usually days rather than longer term) and there is no statutory right to be paid for this — whether you are or not comes down to your employer. More information can be found here

    Can I travel to view or buy a horse?

    Yes, in line with Covid-safe advice. There are also some restrictions and additional testing requirements for international travel.

    What’s the latest situation in Wales?

    Sport, including horse riding, is allowed to continue. Wales’s rules surrounding Covid passes, self-isolation and close contacts vary slightly to those in England. View the full guidance.

    What’s happening in Scotland?

    Sport, including horse riding, is allowed to continue. Rules vary slightly to those in England. View the full guidance.

    What about Northern Ireland?

    There are currently tighter restrictions in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK. Riding is still permitted. View the full guidance.

    Page last updated: 10 December (6.30pm)

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