Are Horse Farms Required to Close Under the Alabama Department of Public Health COVID-19 Order?
March 29, 2020
With the release of the “Order of the State Health Officer Suspending Certain Public Gatherings Due to Risk of Infection by COVID-19” on Friday, March 27, many of my equine business clients have asked me whether they are required to close their horse farms. While each farm is unique and requires an individual analysis, the general answer is “no”.
Only the business specifically listed in the order are required to close. While the order addresses “athletic facilities and activities” (which a horse farm and horseback riding would generally fall under), only the following “athletic facilities and activities” are required to close:
(1) Fitness centers and commercial gyms. If your farm has a public gym, then at least the gym part is required to close – but who has a gym in their barn?
(2) Spas and public or commercial swimming pools. If your farm has a spa or pool, then the spa and pool are required to close, and also, I would like to know where your farm is.
(3) Yoga, barre, and spin facilities. Close these if they are at your farm, and also let me know where you find the time.
(4) Spectator sports. This means NO HORSE SHOWS. Please do not hold a show at your farm during this pandemic.
(5) Sports that involve interaction with another person of closer than 6 feet. One of the great things about equestrian sports is that they generally do not require another person to be within 6 feet of you. (That’s 18 hands for you horse people.)
(6) Activities that require use of shared sporting apparatus and equipment. Generally, equestrian sports do not require the use of a shared apparatus or equipment. This means that you may not share tack, helmets, or other riding gear. Some farms have shared grooming equipment and these supplies should be put away.
(7) Activities on commercial or public playground equipment. I do know some horse farms have playground equipment onsite – these areas should be closed.
As long as your farm does not fall within one of these categories, you can generally remain open as long as you comply with the provision that prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people and requires keeping a 6-foot distance between people at all times. In other words, your farm may remain open as long as 9 or fewer people are there at one time and they stay at least 6 feet apart.
To help with compliance with these requirements, here are some suggestions:
*If you have a large boarding barn, you will probably need to make a staggered schedule for the times owners are allowed to come see and ride their horses.
*If you continue a lesson program during this time, suggest that parents drop their children off, or stay in their cars during the lesson.
*Make sure your grooming bays allow people to stay 6 feet apart. If you have side-by-side grooming bays, you may need to close one temporarily.
*Don’t forget about your farm help, farrier, and vet (and you!) – if they are at the farm, they count as a person toward your 9.
*Continue (because I hope you have been doing this) encouraging people to wash their hands, and wipe down and/or Lysol your stall door latches, bathroom door handles, hose valves, and any other common areas regularly.
*Count yourself lucky that you get to be around horses and still enjoy your sport during this crazy time; at the same time, be safe and thoughtful of others.
NOTE: Some cities have issued their own orders or curfews which may apply in addition to the state-wide rule and these vary from place to place. Please check with your local authorities for your local rules. This article is meant for informational purposes only and to point out that horse farm closures are not mandatory if the rules are followed. It is not intended to advocate a position either way on whether horse farms should or should not be closed.
If you have any questions on your specific situation or any other equine-related matters, please do not hesitate to call or send me an email. I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m done riding.