As the world hunkers down to slow the spread of coronavirus, horse owners face a unique challenge. In the event you become ill or need to self-isolate, do you have a plan to care for your horse?
If you board, your normal daily trips to the barn won't be an option. The RSPCA is encouraging every horse owner to be prepared. We don't know how long this unprecedented time in world history will last, and we can't predict how it will affect our everyday lives. For now, all we can do is make a plan to ensure the safety of both our peers and our horses.
Whether you have a barn at home or rely on a boarding facility, everyone needs to have an emergency plan. Here are a few tips to help all horse owners make it through the coming weeks.
Rely on the Buddy System
The horse community is strong and resilient. When times get tough, we need to lean on each other to tackle all problems. The RSPCA is encouraging all horse people to speak with friends about setting up a buddy system to care for their horses.
Dr. Mark Kennedy with the RSPCA told Your Horse Magazine,
"We know the horse community is amazingly supportive and that owners often pitch in to help each other out."
Talk to your friends and set up a system where you can help each other in the event someone becomes ill or can't take care of their horse. You can make informational packets ahead of time explaining how to care for your horse and pass that information on to trusted friends.
Make Sure You're Stocked on Food, Supplements, and Medication
In some states, non-essential businesses have already been closed. Some feed stores remain open, but it's important to be prepared. If your horse relies on a store-bought diet, you should ensure you have a sufficient supply.
It's important not to panic buy (cleaning out your local feed resource will only hurt fellow horse owners) but consider how much feed you have currently and how much you'll need in the coming weeks. It's also a good idea to acquire any supplements and medications you know your horse will need.
Consider Transitioning to Pasture
Heading into spring and summer, horses should have all the food they need right outside the barn. If you've been thinking about allowing your horse more time to graze, now is a great opportunity to try it out.
Start the transition from hay to grass gradually. Begin the first day with about 15 minutes of controlled grazing. Continue to feed their normal hay ration, but increase grazing time every day. Eventually, your goal is to have your horse grazing 4-5 hours a day.
Plan for Alternative Exercise
Trail riding could be an ideal way to practice social distancing, but there might come a time when riding your horse isn't an option. If you're sick or forced to self-isolate, you don't want your horse to go weeks without proper exercise.
Increasing turnout and asking a friend to ride or lunge your horse will help. You might also need to adjust your horse's feed based on how much exercise they're not getting.
Stall toys like Jolly Balls, Himalayan pink salt licks, and the Manna Pro Likit Boredom Buster are also good to have.
Stay in Contact With Your Vet and Farrier
Above everything, it's important to stay in communication with your vet and farrier. Many vets are adjusting their schedules and routines. If your vet doesn't reach out to you, it's a good idea to contact them to ask about potential changes. Routine exams might be postponed, but is your vet still available in case of an emergency?
The same guidelines apply for farriers. For many areas, farriers are few and far between. The current quarantine could go on for weeks, and it's best to be prepared if possible. Consider contacting back-up farriers in case your regular person isn't available.
The last thing you want when you're sick or forced to self-isolate is to worry about how you're going to care for your horse. You'll be stressed enough without wondering if your horse has enough food. Having a plan is in everyone's best interest. With the right kind of preparedness, you and your horse will make it through this difficult time.