COVID-19 and the Barn
Makenna Osborne, Utah State University Equine Science and Management Undergraduate
Karl Hoopes, DVM, Utah State University Equine Extension Specialist
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 and has caused a worldwide pandemic, imposes several lifestyle changes for those who own horses, donkeys and mules. As social distancing motivates us to spend more time at the barn working with a project horse or seeking comfort in uncertain times, there are many things to consider.
Each facility, whether private or public, should have written policies regarding COVID-19 and expect all clients and professionals to adhere to them. This safety measure protects all who frequent the facility – including you!
- Plan before you go to the barn. Be efficient with your chores and plans with your equines. By lingering, you risk a higher chance of exposure and contamination.
- Watch for symptoms. If you or someone in your household displays symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, tiredness) or may have had exposure to the virus, do not come to the barn until you self-quarantine for 14 days or test negative for COVID-19.
- Quarantine after travel. Require staff, volunteers or boarders to self-quarantine for 14 days after any travel or contact with a person showing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Create a plan to address illness. If your facility has staff, consider sick pay options and how to temporarily replace a staff member who becomes ill.
- Practice good hygiene. Upon arrival at the barn, every person should wash his or her hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before touching anything. If this isn’t an option at your facility, hand sanitizer will work.
- Practice social distancing. Give every person a 6-foot distance.
- Consider the risk of entering a communal space. Do you have any underlying conditions that could make the risk of infection higher? Are you comfortable with this risk?
Barns have many communal spaces and items. Consider limiting the number of riders in an arena at a time, as the virus can survive in the air for up to 3 hours. Encourage boarders and others to tack up in their horse’s stall to limit contact with the facility’s communal crossties or tacking up areas. Tack should only be used by the same individuals; this includes halters and lead ropes. Leaving hand sanitizer by all gates will help ensure that the virus is less likely to reach these surfaces.
- Create a cleaning plan. Make a daily or hourly cleaning chart to prevent virus transmission.
- Clean often. Clean high-traffic areas like bathrooms, wash bays, feed rooms and tack rooms with alcohol-based wipes, bleach or aerosol sanitizer at least once daily, if not more. Wash cloth rags after use.
- Use gloves. Those cleaning should wear disposable gloves to prevent infection.
- Provide cleaning supplies. Keep spray bottles of diluted bleach around for effective sanitizing.
- Disinfect riding gloves and tack often. Riding gloves and tack are considered vectors of spread for any kind of virus or bacteria, including COVID-19. Disinfect tack and riding equipment as often as possible. Avoid touching your eyes, ears or mouth with riding gloves that touch multiple surfaces.
- Communicate with staff. If your facility uses staff to clean stalls, discuss all written protocols and ensure that every staff member or volunteer adheres to them. Consider providing staff or volunteers with their own set of tools, and ask boarders to use their own tools.
- Limit use of shared items. If your facility has a communal refrigerator or microwave, stop using them. If your facility has a radio, sanitize it and limit its use to specific individuals.
EQUINE FEED AND HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS
- Plan for the possibility of becoming infected. Who will feed your horse(s)? Do they have all the keys necessary to get into feed rooms, gates, etc.? Do you have a written feed chart detailing supplement amounts and hay amounts for each horse?
- Store one month of feed. Countries and states have been shutting down borders and travel. If your hay comes from out-of-state or from another county that has a shelter-in-place directive in effect, do you have enough hay, grain and supplements to last your horse(s) for up to one month?
- Create an equine care plan. Many veterinarians and farriers must limit procedures they can perform due to protective equipment shortages and social distancing mandates. If your horse has an injury, do you have the knowledge and supplies available to treat it yourself? Do not try to treat serious injuries, but consider your plan if a veterinarian is unable to make a farm call.
- Access farrier services. If your horses are due for a trim or shoeing, consider having your farrier come out as soon as possible to manage your horses’ feet in the chance that he or she may be unable to come back for several weeks.
Knowing how to properly disinfect tack is useful for any equestrian, be it for strangles or COVID-19. Aerosol sprays such as Lysol tend to strip leather of oils, so if you use an aerosol spray to disinfect your tack, be sure to let it dry completely and then recondition the leather to protect it. Soap and water is another effective way to break down the lining of bacteria and viruses and is often safe for most tack.
Diluted bleach disinfects well, but leather may dry out and crack from repeated treatments.
- Spread. The novel coronavirus is most likely spread from person-to-person contact, usually through respiratory droplets produced through coughing or sneezing.
- Viability. Respiratory droplets can land on all kinds of surfaces. COVID-19 can live on copper for up to four hours, cardboard for 24 hours, and plastic and stainless steel for up to 3 days. COVID-19 can be detected in the air for up to 3 hours after being transmitted.
- Prevention. Due to the structure of the virus, washing hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds is the most effective way to prevent contamination. Hand sanitizer must contain at least 60% alcohol to be effective.
- Cleaning solution. Diluted bleach provides an effective cleaning solution. Use one-third cup of bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.
- Animal transmission. Currently, COVID-19 is not known to transmit from humans to animals.
Graphic credit: American Association of Equine Practitioners. Retrieved from https://aaep.org/sites/default/files/images/COVID_19andBarn_%20safety.jpg
Coronavirus disease resources and updates. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.equinediseasecc.org/coronavirus-resources
List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2. (2020, March 26). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in equestrian facilities. (2020, March). Retrieved from https://aaep.org/sites/default/files/Documents/PreventCOVIDinEquestrianFacilitiesAAEP_0.pdf