What is Essential Travel?
We are all aware of the importance of following government guidelines during the Covid-19 outbreak. One of these guidelines is to avoid non-essential travel but as many of us are primarily responsible for the care and welfare of our horse(s), what do these travel restrictions mean and what is considered essential?
Animal welfare is of critical importance and, unless you have your horse at home, travel to care for them is essential. If you are a groom, then again travelling to your place of work is considered essential and you should continue. However, this is conditional on you are not showing any symptoms for Coronavirus. If you are showing symptoms then you should not be leaving your house, which is why it is so important to have a care plan in place for your horse.
Government guidelines state that you may you leave your house to exercise once a day, they also state that you should combine this with leaving your house to provide care for your horse or livestock. So, it is important to think ahead, if you need to go out to collect food supplies can this be done en route or on your way home? If you have a dog to walk, are you allowed to take them to the yard with you or is there someone else in the household who can walk them?
If your horse is already cared for, on full livery, then the need to travel to see your horse becomes less imperative, so any visits should be limited, if required at all. For any horse which is kept on someone else’s property/at livery, the advice, from both the British Horse Society (BHS) and the British Equine Federation (BEF), is to respect the procedure put in place by the yard owner/ manager and liaise with them accordingly.
So apart from the daily care of your horse what else is essential travel? It comes down to what is vital for the welfare of your horse. So, buying feed and bedding is permitted, but try to have sufficient supplies for two weeks and, if possible, buy everything at one place or see if deliveries can be arranged, perhaps in conjunction with other owners at the yard.
If your horse is on prescribed medicine, then ensure you have sufficient supplies in stock, speak with your vet practice or see if you can buy online.
But what about travelling your horse? Again, whether the journey is essential or not comes down to welfare. If your horse needs urgent veterinary attention at a vet practice then it goes without saying that this is essential travel.
You may be faced with other difficult decisions. For instance, for financial reasons you may be struggling to meet the livery costs at your current yard. If you are transporting your horse for this reason, this is not so black and white. You should first have a conversation with the owner or manager to see if a sensible temporary solution can be agreed before moving your horse.
Another reason you may be thinking about moving yards is perhaps if grazing is insufficient where your horse is currently kept and you have made the decision to turn your horse out for the time being. You will need enough space and grass to do this without compromising the welfare of your horse and may feel you need to move your horse elsewhere to accommodate this. Again, discuss with your yard owner and see whether there is a solution on your current yard in the first instance.
In either of the above scenarios, if there is not a solution available at your current yard, it is in the horse’s best interest to transport them to a new yard. Make sure you carry your horse’s passport for the journey and, where possible, make the journey as short as possible.
Transporting your horse to hire an arena or to hack along some of the routes you’ve always wanted to explore is not essential. Don’t be tempted even though you may have more time on your hands.
As we are following government guidelines, not laws, then regardless of the reason for travel your insurance cover will not be affected by lockdown. So, providing no new laws are implemented during this period, your horsebox insurance and breakdown cover are not subject to any additional terms. If your horse was to injure itself during transportation then, as long as you had cover in place under the appropriate section, a vet fee or mortality claim could be submitted in the same way and would be reviewed under our standard terms and conditions of cover.
Wherever we can avoid travel, and thus limit putting ourselves and others at risk, then we should, but horse welfare should not be compromised.
Please note the advice provided in this article is based on KBIS’ policies and underwriting, you should check with your own insurance provider for their position on travelling during lockdown. Information within this article is based on government guidelines as of the 14th April 2020. You can keep up to date with the latest government advice here. Should you have any welfare concerns the BHS can provide advice and support.