Pandemic assistance for equestrian establishments under used, survey finds

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The income of 67% of riding schools and livery yards is still down on pre Cvoid-19 levels.

A survey in Britain of livery yards and riding schools to learn more about the challenges they are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic has found that there is more support available than is widely known.

The nationwide survey undertaken by SEIB Insurance Brokers found that the effects of Covid-19 are far-reaching in the industry, but that some unexpected positives have been found. Reassuringly, many responses indicated that support is out there for yards – for those who know where to look.

SEIB’s digital marketing manager Katie Oswald said many of the company’s commercial customers were concerned for the future of their businesses, with about two-thirds of respondents reporting that their income has not returned to pre-Covid levels.

27% of riding schools and livery yards have had to make staff redundant, or believe they will have to in the next six months.
27% of riding schools and livery yards have had to make staff redundant, or believe they will have to in the next six months.

“Plenty of yards have accessed support from both the government and charities, including the British Horse Society. But we have found that there are plenty who are unsure where to turn to for help – whether that be seeking financial support or advice,” Oswald said.

The results of the SEIB survey highlighted the important role government and charity grants and funding have played in helping yards since the first lockdown March. Several respondents said they had benefitted from the British Horse Society hardship fund.

The need for clear communication – and knowing where to access information regarding financial support and advice were found to be lacking for some livery yard and riding school owners. One respondent said that “the support is there but people don’t know about it”.

Only 31% of livery yards and riding schools are now operating with full services.
Only 31% of livery yards and riding schools are now operating with full services.

Fifty percent of survey respondents applied for business grants funded by the UK and devolved governments, whilst 13% each applied for the coronavirus job retention scheme and charitable funds – including the BHS hardship fund. Twenty-four percent of yards have applied for government-backed accredited loans, whilst a surprising 34% of yards in the survey have not applied for any grants or funding from government or charity.

Another common theme amongst respondents was the impact that the return of business rates will have on yards that are already down on income. A cited concern was that furloughing or laying off staff was not practical as animals still need caring for. Whilst nearly 50% of respondents said they turned horses out for the duration of the spring lockdown to reduce costs, this may not be an option as the country heads into winter and another lockdown. As a result, yard owners could face high wage, feed and bedding costs and reinstated business rates in the face of a much-depleted income.

13% of livery yards and riding schools sought financial support.
13% of livery yards and riding schools have sought financial support.

Encouragingly, nearly two-thirds of livery yards and riding schools surveyed said that interest in the service they provide has either remained the same or increased since lockdown. Other comments made by respondents reinforced the benefits of outdoor activity. These included mentions of a surge in interest in riding lessons before the second lockdown and appreciation of having the opportunity to take part in an outdoor activity.

One respondent said: “parents are trying to get their children into the countryside and we have lots of new riders since we reopened”.

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