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Equine charities among those hit by coronavirus pandemic

Equine charities are among those to feel the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as they are forced to close visitor centres and cancel events.

Charities have said while their main priorities are keeping staff safe and looking after the equines in their care, they do still rely on the public for donations.

Horse Trust chief executive Jeanette Allen told H&H the charity is having to plan for “numerous potentials scenarios” around the number of staff available.

“All those who normally mostly drive a desk are competent and trained to help with the horses, so everyone has their boots and hats on standby,” she said.

“Living on site means I can be called upon to help out at any time. There is of course also morale to consider when making any decisions affecting the way people are asked to work.”

Ms Allen said the charity’s site could be closed to the public for up to four months, meaning it will lose income from visitors attending the centre, tea room, barn venue and open days.

“Along with income from stands at cancelled shows like Royal Windsor, we are looking at a sizeable hole in our revenue,” she said.

“This is a significant concern and we will be asking our existing donors and the wider horse-loving public to consider helping us at this time.”

Ms Allen added on a positive note, if the charity’s team numbers are not too badly affected, they plan to undertake more training and give their equine residents more one-to-one time.

“We are also ensuring team training opportunities are available online should any of the team be required to isolate, but not be unwell,” she said.

“The truth is, we don’t really know what is coming so need to plan for lots of eventualities; schools being closed may well bring challenges for parents who work, plus some of us are also caring for older parents in isolation. If we struggle with numbers of staff, then planned admissions may have to be paused and we will have to take extra care of those perhaps carrying a heavier burden.”

Lynn Cutress, chief executive of Redwings Horse Sanctuary which has 1,500 equines in its care, said the charity had been doing its best to continue “as normal” but said all five visitor centres closed to the public from today (20 March).

“We had hoped to be able to keep our centres open on a very restricted basis to provide a free and safe space for families to enjoy fresh air during this difficult time, but the announcement to close schools has caused us to reconsider,” she said.

“With about a fifth of our staff being parents themselves, including some of our vets – and with vets and animal care workers not on the government’s key workers list – the existing pressures on our teams have now intensified. We need to ensure all those still able to work can concentrate on the care and welfare of our horses. Sadly, this does mean all events due to take place at our centres have been cancelled or postponed until further notice.”

Ms Cutress said the charity relies 100% on donations from the public.

“We have always been very prudent with our finances but with our visitor centres no longer open, this will naturally impact on the funds we can raise towards the care of our horses,” she said.

“While these are uncertain times, the one thing that does not change is our responsibility to our animals. Therefore, we are appealing for anyone who is able to consider making a donation, to ensure we have the additional funds we may need over the coming months.”

Ms Cutress added the charity’s welfare telephone line remains open for anyone wishing to report concerns.

“Our field officers will continue to investigate those reports where possible. We will also endeavour to continue with our rehoming scheme, subject to considerations over social distancing,” she said.

A spokesman for The Donkey Sanctuary said its five visitor centres are closed to the public.

“The safety of our visitors, staff and donkeys is paramount and is an overriding factor in our decision-making,” he said.

“We have comprehensive contingency plans in place which ensure that our resident donkeys are not affected by this closure, and they will continue to receive the highest level of care by our dedicated grooms who will continue to work as normal.”

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Sue Burton, founder of Essex-based Remus Horse Sanctuary, said the charity is in a very “worrying” position financially after having to cancel fundraising events.

“Remus still has animals at the sanctuary to feed and care for. The staff are hoping that its suppliers can still supply the quantities of feed, hay and straw required,” she said.

“I know times are hard for everyone at the moment but if you can do something to help us during the coming months, we really would appreciate it. With your help and support, we will get through this and come out the other side.”

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