At midnight on Thursday 5 November, England went into national lockdown for a four-week period until Wednesday 2 December. Horse&Rider shares the latest advice from British Equestrian as to what this means for equestrians in England
Following yesterday’s Commons vote to accept the legislation and the follow-up clarification from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and Sport England, British Equestrian (BEF) has now outlined what the lockdown means for equestrians.
Further clarity is being sought from DCMS and Sport England regarding where coaches can teach pupils as the legislation cites ‘public outdoor places’ only. Guidance has also been sought on travelling horses for lessons and training, and the hiring of arenas and other training facilities for exercise, and will advise further in due course.
Are stables being asked to close?
Initially, stables and riding centres had been identified as leisure facilities that should close but these premises have now been removed from the legislation. However, these outlets may only stay open within ruling legislation and requirements, with Covid-19 protocols, hygiene measures and risk assessments in place. Riding centres and schools may remain open and deliver formal training and education, and clients are permitted to travel to take part.
Can I still visit my horse?
You’ll be permitted to leave or be outside of your home…
- to attend to the care of or exercise of your horse, or horses under your care
- to attend veterinary services to seek advice about the health and welfare of your horse or a horse under your care
This means you may leave home to care for your horse(s) and ride them for exercise purposes, but journeys should be as short and infrequent as possible. It’s advised that you work with your yard owner or manager closely and follow their guidance and wishes.
Am I still allowed to ride my horse?
You’re permitted to leave home for outdoor exercise on your own or with members of your household, or one other person who isn’t a member of your household in a public outdoor place. In terms of riding, the BEF has advised that this is done for exercise purposes only and should ideally start and end at the yard where your horse is kept. Public outdoor places include open country, access land, public roads and Crown land where access is permitted, which means that hacking is allowed.
While there’s no definite clarification around travelling your horse to a public outdoor place such a park, forest or beach for exercise, it should be possible if done on safety and welfare grounds. It’s worth consulting your local authority or the landowners before doing so.
If you have an arena at your yard, you may continue to use it, subject to social distancing and number restrictions. You may travel your horse a short distance to use a private arena for exercise purposes also.
What about routine appointments?
- The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and British Equestrian Veterinary Association (BEVA) are advising their members to provide treatment that’s deemed essential for maintaining animal health and welfare, in addition to some non-urgent work where safe working and social distancing measures can be maintained
- Farriers are also being advised that they can continue to work in order to meet welfare needs of equines, but safe working practices must be strictly adhered to by both client and farrier
- Equine dentists and physiotherapists may continue to operate during lockdown, provided that Covid-19 protocols are in place
- Agricultural supply shops are permitted to remain open, so the feed, bedding and equipment supply chain will continue to function
Has all competition been cancelled?
All competition and organised training operating under the BEF has been suspended for the duration of the lockdown, and it has been strongly advised all competition taking place should be suspended and riders not support any shows for the period of lockdown.
Training activity can be interpreted as riding for the purpose of exercise, and is listed for one of the permitted reasons for travelling, but must follow the legislation requirements around travel, location and numbers who can meet.
Can lessons continue?
Coaches may continue to operate on the basis that they may leave home to provide services they’re unable to from home. Sessions should be delivered on a one-to-one basis. Clients travelling to a coach’s base with their own horse(s) for one-to-one lessons could be covered under the legislation, which states you may travel ‘for education or training purposes’. However, there’s no definitive guidance on this and it’s down to individual to make their own decision.
Please visit britishequestrian.org.uk for more information. While the guidance above is correct at the time of publishing, the situation is ever evolving. We’ll endeavour to keep everyone up to date, but please follow the GOV.UK website for all the latest general advice.