Horse Owners continue to act responsibly during the crisis, with most cutting back on ‘risky’ activity with their horses. The welfare of their horses continues to be the greatest concern. However, there is growing evidence that the economic impact is biting hard, not just affecting horse owners spend now, but also highlighting a potential welfare crisis that may continue well beyond the end of the coronavirus emergency.
Horse owners are increasingly concerned about the impact of coronavirus. Three-quarters are worried about being able to get to their horse if lockdown restrictions increase and 64% are worried about their horses’ welfare if either they, or their horse, are ill or injured.
Horse owners continue to cut back on activity with their horse. 64% have now stopped hacking out with a further 23% hacking out less than normal. Higher risk activities such as jumping and fast work have been stopped by 73% of horse owners, with the main reason given as the risk of injury and the added pressure that would place on the NHS.
As a result of less riding and, in some cases, more time availability, horse owners are spending more time on other activities including in-hand work (33%) and ‘quality time’ with their horses (grooming, massage, stretching etc.) (30%). Horse owners are also spending more time cleaning tack and harness (21%) and general yard maintenance (33%)
As the ‘lockdown’ continues an increasing number of horse owners are concerned for the mental welfare of their horse (44% in week 2, up from 36% in week 1).
Vets are generally keeping horse owners well informed through personal communications and via social media. 88% of horse owners are happy with their vet. The one area that is likely to cause increasing concern is around vaccinations. Of those owners whose horses have vaccinations due, three-quarters (74%) have been told by the vet that they will not be done.
The economic crisis is affecting horse owners with 59% worried that they may not be able to afford to keep their horses. Among those working in the equestrian sector 44% of those self employed have seen their work stop altogether and a further 44% have seen their work reduce. For the equestrian trade sector the news continues to be worrying, with the clothing sector hardest hit. 87% of horse owners have stopped or cut back on competition clothing and 64% have stopped or are spending less on casual riding clothing.
With 46% of horse owners in the survey keeping their horse in livery, actions taken by livery yard bosses are important. 78% are applying social distancing rules and half are restricting the number of people coming to the yard. Only a third (36%) are providing sanitisers, soap or gloves. 80% of owners who keep their horses at livery are happy with the actions their yard has taken and there are some great examples of individual yard actions, including additional support for key workers: “They have provided 24/7 turnout for key workers and have stopped fees for bring in/turnout and feeds/nets put in”
One in 10 (9%) feel the restrictions are going too far or have made things difficult for owners: “I understand why the yard owner has closed the yard, but it’s hard not even being able to visit my horse particularly with having so much free time on my hands now I can’t work.”
Helen Roberts, Director XV Insight said “Horse owners are continuing to cut-back both on ridden activity with their horse and on their spending. Spring grass will provide relief for some as spend on hard feed and haylage can reduce, but the economic crisis has potentially huge ramifications for the equestrian sector. There are potential welfare issues looming as horse owners struggle to fund their horses and sector employment is being badly affected with so many of the self-employed seeing their work drop or stop.
The situation around vaccinations also appears to be concerning with the majority of vets not currently carrying out routine vaccinations”