27, February, 2020

There’s a bug in the air, and no matter what, it is going to affect you.

Unless you’re already dead or buried in a cave somewhere (in which case carry on, you really don’t need to think about this) you’ll be aware that there is this wee thing called a Coronavirus doing the rounds. It’s my general observation that there are two main responses to this news – the alarmist ‘we’re all going to die…’ to the ostrich ‘keep calm and carry on’ mentality. The media are not much help, and the government even less – like usual they seem to be contradicting themselves at every turn. I’ve heard all sorts of misinformation from friends and acquaintances, so I thought I’d write a quick blog and tell you what’s what, both as an ex-nurse and also (most importantly) a horse owner. What to expect, what to worry about, what not to worry about and how to prepare.

First things first – this thing is coming. We can close borders, shut down schools, stop travel and stay at home, and it’s still going to come. Those things all have value going forward to slow the spread and give us time to get ready, as well as dissipate the impact on resources, but we are well past the point where it’s going to be contained and eliminated. Lots of people have been talking about the fact that the regular flu is more dangerous, and they’re partly right – the regular flu is more lethal – IF you get it. The thing with the flu is that as a population we have a decent amount of immunity and it’s not so contagious – every year about 5% of the population get it. With Covid-19 there is no immunity, and it’s very contagious – the estimated infection rate is around 60-70% of the population. That’s a lot. Of those only a small fraction will become seriously unwell and only 1-2% will actually die. If you are fit and well, not very young or very old, chances are you’ll just feel rotten for a few days and will be back to a box of fluffy ducks before you know it.

However, in order to protect the vulnerable, there will be a huge impact on life as we know it in the meantime. Lots and lots and lots of public activities will be cancelled. Things like horse shows and race meetings and clinics and events. Schools & universities will shut, workers will be encouraged to work from home where possible and normal daily services will be under pressure as people take time off to recover. It’s not the end of the world, but 2020 will be a very different year from any other that we have experienced. And now is the time to think about how you can get ready for it. Those of you with yards will probably be able to continue as normal, working from home, but those who work in closed office environments should talk to their bosses about remote working (and if you’re a boss, think about this and what to do when your staff get sick – and they are all likely to at the same time, unfortunately). You don’t need to shop for the apocalypse, but do make sure you have enough food (including pet food) at home to survive for a month without shopping if you had to. Don’t forget your regular meds, some cold and flu remedies and whatever the animals will need as well.

Make sure you have enough horse feed stored and have a plan in place so that everyone knows what the absolute bare minimum is that needs to get done if all the people are ill. Although no events are openly discussing cancelation as yet – start hatching a plan for an alternative year. What’s the worst that could happen if we can’t compete? We can still ride & train… a lot of horses and riders would absolutely benefit of a focussed year away from competition – so work on your mindset and have a ‘best case scenario’ in place before the worst case happens. There will be no point complaining about it if we are all on shut down – let’s make the most of the opportunities. And be thankful that this is a sport where we can practice and train without being in close proximity – team sports like rugby and hockey aren’t so fortunate.

Finally, have a think about policies and protocols for the traveling service people for your yards – the farriers, the physios, the delivery people, the vets. They will still need to come into your space, so make it safe for them – be clean, wash your hands, wear masks if you are unwell or have been in contact with someone who has (remember, normal face masks protect the other people, not the wearer). Be kind to them and for goodness sake, please continue to use them – they are far more at risk that those of us who are lucky enough to be in one place will be, our horses need their care if they are competing or not, and our service people need to keep getting paid.

Take care out there. If you’ve got any questions about this virus or comments and suggestions for other horse people who might be concerned, please leave them below, or come and join us on Facebook and contribute to the conversation there.

Woman riding horse in indoor arena as two people sit and watch

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