Should I be Riding my Horse During the Coronavirus Restrictions?

A post in support of those who have made the right decision for themselves either to ride, or not to ride.

Trampoline-InjuriesAs the lockdown continues, the rage of the social-media exercise-police gathers momentum. There are no specific rulings from the government as to how we take our permitted exercise, other than we should avoid high-risk activities which are likely to put further strain on the NHS, and that we should practise social-distancing at all times. The latter is an extremely easy business to achieve on the back of a horse. The rest of it is proving to be something of a grey area, and provoking considerable hostility, especially through social-media where people are lightning quick to sit in judgment on someone they don’t actually know, let alone the world of equitation – and, where any one individual sits within that sphere. Anger is high towards those still able to continue with some of the activities they’ve always done. Families are grounded at home, and not only is this encouraging lots of on-line activity, but I’m wondering if the accidents on quad bikes and trampolines over the easter bank holidays could potentially outweigh those of low-key horse-riding! 
Untitled designAt the time of writing the UK government, quite rightly, recognises the fact that exercise is vital for mental and physical health. And the need for it to continue is also relevant in order to keep the population fit, and to avoid a whole range of problems for future NHS services. Those who exercise regularly already know the benefits and understand the reasons for doing so. But these waters have become muddied by hoards of people taking exercise together, or hanging-out in the park and for some reason, the lone rider or cyclist, or walker, is an easy target for fear and anger. Some situations need to be understood in context. Someone walking, cycling or horse-riding from their back door in the Welsh hills and covering 10 or more miles, is virtually no risk compared to a guy attempting the same activities in a highly populated city. 
If your horse is kept on a public livery yard then the decision may already have been taken out of your hands. If you have to travel a long distance to ride your horse, then its probably not a good idea either, unless the issue is also the fact that you need to feed, water, and do all the things necessary to maintain basic welfare requirements. But if you choose to ride, how do you evaluate the risk factor? It’s obviously down to the individual  horse, your own confidence and ability, and the type of riding available to you. If your horse is only used to competing in an indoor school and this is now unavailable, is your horse safe to hack out in your designated area? And if you don’t ride your horse at all, how safe will he be once you decide to get back into the saddle?
IMG_20200214_102809796_HDRI am currently riding a 17 year old 12.2 pony and able to ride mostly off-road – not that the roads are a problem, there’s never been a safer time to use our country roads! I hack at a steady pace and consider my activities to be as low-risk as they possibly could be. Compare this scenario to that of riding a young thoroughbred and perhaps schooling at home over jumps. I would evaluate both the horse and the activity to be pretty high-risk. There are a million permutations in-between these two extremes. This is why riders should be allowed to make their own, honest judgement in deciding whether they should or could be riding at this time, or not. And without fear of reprisal or guilt.
A response from someone who works in an NHS emergency department.
” We’ve had 2 trauma calls in the last few weeks. They were both RTAs. We’ve had around 20 large bone fractures. There were a couple of cyclists, but mainly elderly falling in their own gardens and 1 drunk person on a hover-board in their house. I have seen zero horse injuries. Zero sport injuries. People really are listening in this respect and we’ve been very thankful for the lack of this work whilst the respiratory work increases daily. I think the key is low risk. You know your horse and local area. You know whats an easy ride Vs challenge. We trust you to make good decisions, and if you don’t, that’s called autonomy and we’ll still be there with open doors to help if needed.
You still need to enjoy life, responsibly.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, its mental health and domestic violence we’ve seen rises in.
Personally if going for a gentle ride in a remote place stops your mental health declining, I’d rather you did that.”

15 thoughts on “Should I be Riding my Horse During the Coronavirus Restrictions?

  1. I just got shouted at by a cyclist because I asked him to slow down while I was hacking my gelding on a country lane. He said me and my friend should not be out on our horses at this time of night! It was 5.30pm! And no, he didn’t slow down 😠

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  2. This is laminitis time, stop riding now and the risk of laminitis rises. I am 74, if I stop riding for long I will never get going again ☺️

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  3. I worry that the people who have chosen not to ride for several weeks/months, will have very fresh horses when they start again. Wouldn’t this be more likely to cause more problems than keeping them going

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  4. I worry that all of this is based around your own ability to continue your life with minimal interruption. It is about everyone doing what is best for their community. Either we are all in or we are all out. I work for the NHS and am in daily contact with the small percentage of the population that have sadley seen the worst of this pandemic. I am also a horse owner and rider. If you want to interpret lock down as a thing for everyone else, I will not be in the slightest bit surprised. But please don’t then start a public debate as to whether you have the right to carry on tramping 10 miles plus across Wales as an essential form of exercise, or claim at any point in the future that you support us actually working on the front line putting our own lives and those of our resident family members at risk.

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    1. I’m urging riders to make a sensible decision on whether they should or shouldn’t be riding – dependent on their individual circumstances. The examples I used are simply that, in order to reiterate a point.
      I applaud the job you are doing for the NHS right now. Some of my riding buddies are also front-line, most of them still riding but I respect their choice not to, if personal circumstances dictate.


  5. I’m a cyclist and I have the same problem (and guilt) using my bike. I’m also a keyworker and NEED (mentally) the freedom a ride gives me and to be honest, I think we all need some sort of our usual pattern these days. Riding a horse poses no risk (no more than usual) and if someone is two metres of you they are (1) tall or (2) weird.

    Carry on riding, cycling and carry on being mindful of the other person coming towards/behind/over-taking you, just like you normally would.

    People reporting seeing others outside is the new witchhunt.

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  6. Respect, Louise!

    I think you are right about trying to find some vestige of our usual life patterns in these scary times.

    I know friends of mine who live somewhere the virus is known to be avoid touching gates etc when they’re out for walks. Perhaps that is something to do with the antipathy? People on bikes and horses can move further than those on foot and touch more things that others may also touch?

    Whatever, try and let the unkind witch hunts which people with nothing better to do (and I mean that literally) occupy themselves with wash over you. And keep on keeping on!

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  7. Laura – I did not mean to imply that *you* have time on your hands. But general maithering on local social media here makes it clear that there are quite a lot of people who are not adjusting well to the sudden change of routine and the worry that goes with our current situation. They lash out hurtfully sometimes. We shall, I am sure, get better at all pulling together over this: the longer we have to do it, the better we shall get at it.

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  8. As someone else has said, horses need exercise. Those kept in yards without much land need exercising in the same way a large dog. As long as you respect social distancing, wear gloves and avoid touching things, I can’t see why you shouldn’t. People with dogs are allowed to walk them, so I would think people with horses should be allowed to ride them, as long as they have easy access and don’t put anyone else at risk. That said, we don’t have such strict lockdown rules in NL, so it’s not an issue here as far as I know.

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