With England now in lockdown three and the rest of the United Kingdom also facing similar Covid-19 restrictions, the government’s message is “stay at home” and only go out for essential reasons.

Below are the main guidelines for horse owners and riders from the British Horse Society (BHS) and British Equestrian Federation (BEF) as to what you can and can’t do in England.

Please note that the regulations vary slightly depending on whether you live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Find advice specific for where you live here.

Can I ride my horse?

Yes — exercise is an important part of equine welfare, especially at this time of year when turnout is often restricted. The BHS advises that you can still ride, drive and exercise your horse. To help ease the pressure on the NHS, consider the type of activity you are doing and ensure you remain within your and your horse’s capabilities.

However, all organised activities and competitions are not permitted, and arena hire is not allowed.

Can I still ride with a friend?

In England and Scotland, you can ride with people you live with, your support bubble or with one person from another household. If the latter applies, you must socially distance at all times.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, you can only ride with people you live with or people in your support bubble. Mixing with other households is not allowed. Read the BHS’s full advice on this here.

Bear in mind that some routes you ride on may be busier than normal, so be mindful of other people, including walkers and cyclists.

Can I still go to my livery yard?

Yes, but you must adhere to government guidelines at all times. This includes maintaining social distancing and washing hands regularly. If you share equipment with other yard members, mucking out tools for example, these must be disinfected after eash use and you must wash your hands.

The BHS stresses that horse welfare is critical and exercise forms part of the care plan for your horse, in order to maintain their health and wellbeing.

Follow guidelines for visitors that your livery yard has put in place to help reduce the number of people on the yard at one time, if applicable.

Can I travel my horse somewhere new to ride?

No. Transport is only allowed for a welfare or emergency (veterinary) reason.

What if I become ill or have to self-isolate and can’t visit the yard?

If you are showing any covid-19 symptoms, it is imperative that you stay at home. If you are ill or have to self-isolate, do not go to the yard. It is important to have a contingency plan in place for this so that your horse continues to be cared for.

This includes writing a care and emergency plan for your horse in your absence. The BHS has a Covid-19 care plan template free to download here.

Can I still call the vet out to see my horse?

Yes. Your horse’s health and welfare is essential and the British Veterinary Association and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons have confirmed that vets won’t be reverting to emergency-only work, which was the case during lockdown one last March. Find out what your veterinary practice’s lockdown and general Covid policies are (many will have posted updates on their website and social media channels) and adhere to them.

Can a physio visit to treat my horse?

The BHS advises that where physiotherapy treatment is necessary to support the welfare of your horse, then a physio may attend. However, government guidelines (social distancing and hand washing, for example) must be adhered to.

Can my farrier still visit?

Yes, because hoof care is also essential for welfare. The Farriers Registration Council (FTC) says: “Registered Farriers throughout Great Britain should, with immediate effect, prioritise the delivery of farriery services to equines with welfare needs. Where equines are at risk of becoming welfare cases, registered farriers should liaise with equine owners in respect of individual cases.”

Read the full advice from the FRC here.

Can I continue to give or have riding lessons?

The BEF states that while the government’s guidance states that you can travel to work where you cannot work from home, the overarching message of the lockdown is to stay at home.

Coaches should read the guidance and assess whether there is a necessity to continue coaching face to face. The BEF advises that one to one lessons at a coach’s own yard with clients who keep their horses on site would be acceptable, providing full covid-19 practices (social distancing etc) are observed.

Coaches should also check with their insurance provider before undertaking any activities.

There are variations to the guidelines on this for each country within the UK. Please check the specific advice that applies to you here.

Is my riding school allowed to stay open?

The BEF states that non-essential retail businesses and venues, including leisure and sports facilities, have been ordered to close, and equestrian arenas and riding centres are included in the list.

Private facilities, such as those at your yard, can be used in order to exercise horses for their welfare where necessary. No hire of facilities is permitted and travelling horses should only be on welfare or veterinary grounds.

Only elite training and competition may continue.

Read the full advice from the BHS which is specific to the country you live in here.

Read the BEF’s full advice here.