How to stay safe when riding horses during the pandemic

Whether your region is in full lockdown or not, take these precautions when riding horses during the pandemic.

The quarantine imposed by the coronavirus has been forcing athletes to adapt their training regimes. Riding horses is no different, though it does pose some unique challenges. Equestrianism is not a team sport, but neither is it an individual sport. It unites animal and human, and the success of one determines the success of the other. So how can you make sure that both you and your horse stay safe when riding during the pandemic?

Horses vs. humans: assessing the risks

There is still no concrete proof that horses are at risk of being infected by COVID-19, or that they can carry and transmit it to humans. The risk for horses amid the pandemic lies in their training schedules. That is, a horse that’s asked to perform at a certain level of endurance or strength (eg. jumpers, trail horses, etc.) can be injured if their training is not maintained for long periods of time during quarantine. In addition to physical conditioning, an unexpected pause in a horse’s training schedule can also affect his digestive system, weight and mental wellbeing.

For humans, the risks associated with riding during the pandemic are more obvious. If an infected person sneezes or coughs on or around a horse, the droplets can end up on the coat or tack for someone else to encounter. Riders are also more at risk when riding in high-traffic areas, like arenas or busy trails.

If you’re riding during the pandemic, the following list of tips will help keep you – and your horse – safe and in shape.

1. Pay attention to your surroundings

If you live in an area with a large number of positive COVID-19 cases, consider finding a different place to ride during the pandemic. If that’s not possible, ride on off-peak times (early morning or late evening) to limit your exposure to other people. Just make sure there’s good lighting!

As much as possible, search for and choose to ride in places with fewer crowds. Also, be prepared to change your plans if, upon reaching your destination, you discover that it’s overcrowded. And regardless of where and when you choose to ride, don’t forget to social distance!

2. Avoid using common places to tie your horse

Always tie your horse to your own trailer, or in an area with few people. You can also ask others to tie their horses at a safe distance away from you and your equine companion.

3. Do not handle horses or tack being used by others

Whenever possible, avoid sharing or handling saddles, bridles, cleaning items, and horses that are being used/ridden by others. If it’s unavoidable, be sure to sanitize the supplies before use.

4. Follow the general pandemic guidelines

Stay at least 1.5 meters from others at the barn, in the arena or on the trail. Wear a mask and use hand sanitizer on a regular basis.

When it comes to riding during the pandemic, it’s better to be safe than sorry. In order to maintain your horse’s training regime and keep him in good shape, follow these steps to keep yourself healthy!