It’s important to stay safe and reduce the risk of accident or injury to both horse and handler as much as we can. We’ve put together some suggested safety tips to keep you safe around your own and others horses at this time, particularly if you are working alone.
Staying safe around horses when working alone: Make sure someone knows where you are, and when you expect to be back. That way, someone can check on you if you get into trouble.
Keep a mobile phone on you at all times, in case you need to call for assistance. We’ve all done it, left our phone in the tack room while we go to the field. When working alone it’s really important that you have it with you.
Wear suitable clothing and footwear. Even if you’re ‘just nipping up to feed the horses’, make sure you wearing gear that will keep you safe. We strongly recommend wearing an approved standard riding hat while handling horses, not just when riding.
Avoid bringing feed into a herd situation. Supplementary feed of any kind can be a highly valued resource for horses and ponies, especially those who may be on a restricted diet. Keep yourself safe by bringing horses out of the herd to be fed away from others and avoid creating competition or fighting between herd mates.
Stay safe, hay safe. If you need to put hay out, try to do it from the other side of a fence, even if it’s just enough to keep horses attention while you then lay out the rest of the hay ration throughout the field.
Don’t forget to feed according to workload. As well as type, temperament and current weight/body conditions score, workload is an important consideration when deciding what your horse’s energy intake needs are. If you’ve stopped riding and your horse is usually in enough work to need supplementary hard feed, or he’s a good doer, it’s likely that you’ll need to decrease his feed ration. This can avoid weight gain as well as excess energy.
Consider making a ‘corral’ in the field. This can allow you to bring one or two horses out for daily care like grooming, picking out feet or changing rugs without the unwanted interest of the whole herd! Corrals can also help when you need to bring a horse out of a herd, to avoid others escaping if they are keen around the gate area.
Consider whether current herd groups are still the best groups. If you keep your horse at livery or with horses owned by other people, and you rely on another owner to catch their horse before it’s safe to catch yours, communication is key between yard owners and horse owners to ensure everyone’s safe. If the normal routine isn’t possible at the moment and the situation isn’t safe, is there another way around it? Could horses that show unwanted behaviour around the gate be grazed in a different area? Or consider the use of a corral, even a temporary one, as mentioned above.
Continue handling and training. It’s important if you can, to continue handling your horse every day and keeping him in a routine. He will expect to be caught and handled every day and this will remain ‘normal’ rather than ‘novel’. Regular handling during lockdown will help you pick up your training again when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.