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New research reveals the impacts of lockdown on horse management

Research has highlighted the impact of the coronavirus on owners and yards – as it is hoped findings will aid future guidance.

A survey launched on 26 March by scientific and equine consultant David Marlin, Jane Williams of Hartpury University and vet Louisa Taylor, looking at the affect of the pandemic on horse management, received more than 6,000 responses in 10 days.

Findings included that a third of owners are worried they will experience a financial impact which may affect welfare, only a third of yards had provided owners with guidance on the situation, and those with horses on DIY, part and full livery are the most concerned about restrictions affecting their ability to manage horses with medical needs.

Dr Marlin told H&H the aim of the survey, which will be repeated in four to eight weeks, is to gain a snapshot of owners’ concerns in order to provide stakeholders, such as professional bodies and welfare charities, with an understanding of what is going on so they can support owners.

“It’s clear there is an impact on owners that is progressing, and we want to mitigate any panic,” he said. “The biggest thing is a lack of information, or misleading information that tends to circulate more than ‘good’ information.

“The survey gives bodies who support welfare an opportunity to see where we are and plan for what needs to be done.”

Other findings included that more than two-thirds of owners keeping horses at home and 36% to 48% of livery users are still riding – despite the British Equestrian Federation’s advice not to ride, unless strictly necessary. More than 80% of yards had introduced social distancing, but fewer than 50% had taken other recommended steps.

“There is a lot of social distancing which is good, but only 50% of yards are implementing Government-recommended practice; it may be people attending more than necessary, or not following steps such as washing hands,” said Dr Marlin.

British Equine Veterinary Association chief executive David Mountford told H&H it was good the survey had been done.

“It’s useful for owners, and the industry, to know what’s going on and to be able to feed this back to the Government,” he said, adding that owners must think carefully about what is best for their horses and be flexible in their approach.

“The situation and guidance will change, so we should be prepared to adjust. We’re in such a fast-moving situation, the responses in a couple of weeks might be very different and that will be very important work.”

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World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers told H&H the survey was an excellent way of “getting some feel” for the impact of Covid-19 on owners.

“We will be looking to update our advice on the back of the results, especially around what people can and can’t do with horses and the worrying fact a small number of yards have no social distancing measures in place,” he said.

“As concern among owners on welfare rises, such intelligence will be ever more important.”

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