BY LAUREN MAULDIN
You can’t deny it—we’re in interesting times right now. In the span of about a week, the coronavirus went from being “just the flu” mostly in other countries to an invisible threat disrupting life and commerce in our own backyard.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’re enjoying the luxury of working from home or an extended spring break from school. For equestrians, that means one thing… more barn time! Many of us need horses now more than ever, but it’s important to keep our barn sanctuaries safe.
Although it may seem like a sunny horse barn with a lot of outdoor space is an impossible area for a virus to spread, germs don’t care about freshly drug arenas. We want you to enjoy your horse and riding as much as possible, but it’s important to remember these essential tips to stop the virus from spreading in our beloved barns.
Unfortunately, some just have to stay home.
The regulations and news change almost by the hours these days, but at the time of writing this article, the majority of the United States is still allowed to leave the house as needed. However, some are under a “shelter in place” edict that states you must stay home. And yes, that includes the barn.
Additionally, if you are showing any symptoms of sickness including sneezing, coughing, sore throat, or fever you must stay home. Text a friend or your barn owner to check on your horse. Even though it may hurt our mental health not to be able to ride or groom our horses, it’s not worth risking the safety of everyone else.
Don’t neglect social distancing.
Social distancing indicates that we must try to maintain a 6′ distance from each other, which is fairly easy to do at the barn. Try to avoid having too many people in the aisles or tack rooms at once. If there is space in the cross ties, spread out some and groom your horse a little further out from your friends than normal. Skip the high fives and hugs hello. Basically, act like a chestnut mare and keep your distance.
Clean the stalls (and the toilet).
Although it might not seem like it, there is actually a lot of shared space at the barn. If your barn is anything like mine, the communal bathroom isn’t exactly as sparkling and clean as your one at home. And a barn bathroom is a perfect place for coronavirus to fester.
Family practitioner, Dr. Theresa Jones Pugh, had this to say in terms of keeping the barn clean and free from germs: “The virus sheds in the GI tract, so it can be spread about a bathroom really easily,” she explains. “Wiping down the toilet, toilet handle, sink handles and door knob regularly will help. And wash your hands super thoroughly after using the bathroom… maybe wash them and then use hand sanitizer.”
To keep your barn bathroom from becoming a petrie dish, you can make a chart for boarders to help pitch in and give it a quick once over. If everyone pitches in, it won’t seem like much extra work and riders and the more-important-than-ever staff that cares for your horse will stay healthy.
Kill it with bleach (aka wipe down all the things).
When it comes to everyone’s health, you can’t be too safe. Think about all the different things you touch at the barn that aren’t yours. For me, this includes door handles, cross tie snaps, light switches, etc. Each boarder touches all of these items many, many times during their time at the barn, and all it takes is one touch to your face to spread any lingering germs.
But don’t panic—there’s a lot you can do to mitigate this. Do you like to ride in gloves? Put them on earlier than normal, and enjoy a layer of protection. Try to only use items you own, and be sure to wipe down anything you borrow (like the crop or lunge whip that everyone in the barn seems to share). Dr. Pugh tells us why this is so important, “The virus can live on surfaces for as much as nine days,” she explains. “Lysol, 409, rubbing alcohol, and bleach should all kill it.” It’s important to note that sunlight does not kill the virus, so don’t assume that crop that sits out in the sun is safe from germs.
If everyone works together and is considerate of others, we will all be okay in the end. “The barn is a pretty safe place,” Dr. Pugh adds. “It’s definitely safer than the grocery store, but this is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”
Regardless if you feel that you are a high risk or not to contract the virus, please be considerate for your barn family that may be at risk or have family members at high risk. Being kind to each other and looking out for our neighbors is the way we’re going to get through this.
About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.
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