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Essential Equine Care & Personnel During a Pandemic

Essential Equine Care & Personnel During a Pandemic
By Doug Mayo
What is considered essential veterinary and hoof care?
Essential care is that which is required during the pandemic to meet welfare standards. Talk with your veterinarian to determine what must be done now and what can wait.  The American Association of Equine Practitioners have developed Principles of Equine Welfare that can be used as a guide for defining essential equine care.  Essential equine care should be evaluated in terms of the actions and activities that must happen during the pandemic to ensure animal welfare standards are met.  Below are examples of essential and nonessential equine care actions and activities.
Should I continue allowing entry to the facility?
Individual horse owners and horse farm owners/operators must understand the life and death nature of a pandemic. If a farm owner decides to allow entry to their property, they carry significant responsibilities for potential exposure to and spread of COVID-19. They also carry the burden of ensuring the CDC guidelines are adhered to by every person at the facility for the entire time they are there, and for establishing a tracking mechanism (check-in/check- out exposure log), should someone who was in their facility test positive.  Careful consideration of risks and preventative measures will help farm owners make informed decisions that will safeguard personal, client, and horse health.
Should boarders visit the barn?
Only allow access to the people that provide primary care for horses. If this is the case, time blocks should be established for those boarders to enter and provide that daily primary care. The boarder and farm owner/operator are responsible for ensuring CDC guidelines are adhered to throughout the visit, to reduce potential exposures. Another option is to add full care board during this time.
I want to do the right thing, but I also need to see my horse!
This is understandable. If you cannot see your horse due to barn closure, invent other strategies:
  1. Request photos/videos of your horse
  2. Identify a “no direct contact” location to drop off treats for your horse
  3. Consider bringing something for the people taking care of your horse, during this incredibly difficult time. Please keep in mind all the challenges and tough decisions they are facing, as well.
Can I ship a horse – either for sale or for breeding?
Horse owners need to determine if transportation is necessary for essential animal care, and then plan accordingly.  Remember these are general guidelines and are not state-specific. Daily life constantly changes during a pandemic, so  the  best  thing  you can do is contact your state agricultural agency about specific situations.
What if I get sick and cannot care for my horse?
Having a plan is critical during these stressful times. Develop a Personal Preparedness Plan to detail the essential care instructions for each of your horses.
Developing a personal preparedness plan for equine owners/caretakers during a pandemic:
We do an amazing job year round caring for our horses, and often go above and beyond the basic welfare standards to give them a very high quality of life. Unfortunately, this pandemic requires horse owners/operators to consider making arrangements for an alternative animal caretaker in the event that they become ill and need long-term care themselves. Developing a Personal Preparedness Plan can help relieve any worries you may have about getting sick and being unable to provide daily essential care for your horse(s).
Follow the list below to create your own emergency plan:
  1. Identify who will care for your horse(s) in case of illness. Redundancy is encouraged – it is not enough to have only one person identified!
  2. Identify each horse – do not assume that everyone can recognize who is who in a herd of similarly colored horses.
  3. Create a detailed and specific list of daily care instructions for each horse. Identify and prioritize essential care, considering only what is necessary to maintain welfare standards. Supplementing with pictures or video can be helpful. You may want to create a simplified list of care instructions if your caretaker is less experienced.
  4. Make sure you have two weeks of feed and medication on hand for every horse.
  5. Have electronic and written copies of the instructions in a conspicuous location.
  6. In the event that you begin to feel ill, contact those on your emergency list to apprise them of the situation. Additionally, please minimize direct contact with your horse – if someone else needs to care for them, we must minimize their exposure to the virus.
For backup care providers:
  1. COVID 19 does not appear to affect animals but can exist on surfaces, especially nonporous. Do not touch anything handled by the ill person without personal protective equipment (PPE).
  2. Remember – the virus has not been proven to survive more than several days on any surface. If the horses’ welfare will not be compromised by minimal contact for five days, this would be preferred.
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