Covid-19 restrictions left some owners worrying about their horses – survey

Associate Head of School and Associate Professor of Equine Science in the Charles Sturt School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Dr Hayley Randle, with her horse Hotshot. Photo: Charles Sturt University

Some horse owners in Australia and New Zealand affected by Covid-19 restrictions were anxious about the welfare of their animals, a survey has found.

Equine science specialist Dr Hayley Randle, from Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, helped with an international survey of horse owners to determine how the pandemic affected them and their animals.

The online survey drew 680 results from Australia and 527 from New Zealand.

Analysis revealed that some owners were worried about horse health and welfare, access to horse care-related professionals and current and future shortages in feed.

The survey unearthed concerns around horse activity within the industry (training, leisure riding, competing) and human wellbeing.

The survey measured reactions to factors such as whether owners were able to keep their horses at home or at agistment, whether owners could still visit their horses, whether horses could still be ridden, changes in services from vets, farriers, dentists, and ongoing and future costs.

“Horse owners have real concerns about both current and future shortages in feed and other things necessary for looking after their horses,” Randle said.

Their concerns around access to horse-care-related professionals centered mainly around vets and farriers, but there were also worries around access to a wider range of people who help to keep horses healthy and performing.

An overwhelming number of participants indicated they had wanted a more consistent guide during government-imposed restrictions around what they could and could not do, such as interstate travel to care for horses or clarity around horse racing.

“A lot of people have put themselves under self-imposed restrictions and stopped doing things such as riding young horses and jumping, because they considered these more risky,” Randle said.

“Those who normally compete their horses were very worried about the loss of opportunities to do so and the impact that has on long-term horse fitness and also for resale value.”

Businesses and owners were concerned the financial implications of Covid-19 would impact decisions they make and affect their ability to keep their animals in the future.

The results revealed the effects of the pandemic on the mental and physical health of horse owners.

Those who kept their horses at home felt relatively unaffected by restrictions and some were even thankful for the opportunity for more frequent and improved interactions with their animals.

“It is amazing how many people who are able to keep their horses at home expressed their gratitude for not having their access to them restricted due to the kinds of necessary social distancing measures being imposed in other places, such as agistments,” Randle said.

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