As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread through the country, chances are you’re facing some challenges in managing your barn that you’ve never encountered before. Some states have gone into lockdowns, requiring all non-essential businesses to close, while others are still fully operational. In this uncertain time, how do you ensure that your horses receive the care they need while keeping yourself, your barn staff, and your boarders safe? These tips can help.
Stay Up to Date with Your State’s News
Because states are in different phases of restrictions and lockdowns, it’s important to start by getting up-to-date information for your specific state. Your state’s government website is a good source of information. You may also want to consult with your state health care authority/department of public health.
While some states are issuing shelter in place orders, specifications for equestrian businesses vary. Some states, like New York, have specified that riding lessons should not continue during this time. When deciding the actions that are right for your facility, make sure that you’re familiar with the current requirements for your area.
Understand How COVID-19 Can Spread in Your Barn
To make your barn as safe as possible, consider all of the ways that COVID-19 can spread. While there’s no evidence that horses can become ill with COVID-19, the significant threat for transmission lies in human-to-human spread of the virus. The CDC recommends that people maintain at least a six-foot distance from each other, a recommendation important to keep in mind during busy times in your barn.
But COVID-19 can also spread through droplets spread from saliva, sneezing, and coughing that land on commonly used surfaces. Think about the surfaces in your barn that multiple people come into contact with:
- Stall and gate latches
- Cross ties, lead ropes, and halters
- Grooming supplies
- Light switches
- Door knobs and barn handles
- Hoses, feed scoops, wheelbarrows, and other equipment
Because the virus can live on surfaces for days, it’s a challenge to keep a barn that’s in full operation sanitized. Disinfect these surfaces at least once a day, and if you have multiple staff or multiple boarders coming into the barn, try to increase your disinfecting practices to multiple times per day.
When disinfecting surfaces, be sure to follow the directions on the disinfectant that you’re using. Many products need to be applied to a surface and then left to sit for a few minutes to be most effective.
In addition to sanitizing your barn, minimizing the number of people who visit the barn can help to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Encourage your boarders to stay home if they’re sick, and consider asking boarders to schedule their visits so that there are only one or two people in the barn at a time. You can set up an online calendar to help with this. Request that boarders stay only as long as required to ride, care for their horse, or do other tasks, and ask them to go home once those tasks are completed, rather than staying at the barn to socialize.
You may also choose to close down your barn to boarders completely. Many barns are following this strategy, closing for two weeks to help keep their staff healthy. Now is also the time to create a contingency plan identifying caretakers who could step in to help if staff were to get sick.
Ultimately, how you handle this time is a decision that will depend on your barn’s situation, the COVID-19 prevalence in your area, and what you’re comfortable with, yourself. With some planning, you can help to keep yourself, your staff, and your boarders safe, minimizing the risk of COVID-19 arriving at or traveling through your barn.