Horse owners are ever aware of the potential for disease outbreaks in their herd and the possibility sick horses might need to be quarantined. But COVID-19 has flipped the equation in the equine world.
What happens when a horse owner has to self-quarantine? How can they make sure their horses are properly cared for?
“Everybody who owns horses should have a contingency plan in place,” says David Anderson (www.horsedrinker.com), president and CEO of Bar-Bar-A, a company that produces automatic livestock drinkers. “If owners have to self-quarantine or are sick from the virus and aren’t prepared for this scenario, it may be a scramble to make sure their horses are getting everything they need.
“To prepare, ask yourself what essentials your horses will need in the event of your extended absence. Assume you’re going to be unavailable for a while and your horses won’t miss you – because you made sure they were fully cared for.”
Anderson offers tips if you can't care for your horse due to being self-quarantined:
- Have a friend in mind. It’s a good idea in that contingency plan to prepare a trusted friend who can be ready to care for your horse. “Write a comprehensive, up-to-date care plan for your horse, which should include the exercise schedule, turnout, feed chart, blanketing instructions, etc.,” Anderson says.
- Remember: Clean water is always a must. If the owner is not feeling up to filling drinking troughs, keeping them topped off – and making sure the water is clean – is a key responsibility of the enlisted caretaker. “Stagnant drinking water in troughs attract mosquitoes, which carry viruses,” Anderson says. “Automatic waterers are convenient but those with standing water will need to be cleaned regularly. Don’t let the convenience of the waterer lead to negligence in checking the water regularly. Some horses have a habit of dirtying the water. Make sure whoever’s watching the horses checks the waterers daily and sees that the horses are drinking.”
- Pack an emergency kit. If an owner can’t get a horse to the veterinarian, or the veterinarian is sick, having a fully-stocked emergency kit in advance is vital. “It should include essential prescription medications that can be administered at the vet’s direction,” Anderson says. “Make sure if there’s a person caring for the horse that they know what to do in case the horse has a health emergency and the owner isn’t reachable.”
- Stock up. Most self-quarantines for COVID-19 last 14 days, but recovery times differ. So stocking up for a few weeks for your horses’ needs is important – horse feed, hay, and any other pertinent supplies. “Also remember,” Anderson says, “that horses can survive on quality hay in a paddock or pasture along with clean water. Money might be tight at this time for some, and if so, spend more on hay than feed. They’ll do fine with less feed as long as your designated helper gives them proper turnout and hay.”
“One thing we’re learning from COVID-19 is not to think it can’t happen to you,” Anderson said. “Horse owners need to plan in advance to ensure their horses stay healthy while the owner is not.”