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Extension is expanding its online education and resources to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.

Caring for your horses during Minnesota’s COVID-19 restrictions

November 20, 2020 update:

Governor Tim Walz has issued an emergency Executive Order, EO 20-99, in response to the sharp increase in community transmission of COVID-19. This order is in effect from 11:59 p.m., Friday, November 20 to 11:59 p.m., Friday, December 18, 2020.

EO 20-99 imposes some, but not all, of the restrictions enacted during the earlier stay-at-home order. Please note the following items of potential interest to horse and barn owners:

  • Social gatherings among people from different households are prohibited.
  • The face-covering/mask mandate remains in effect for all places of public accommodation.
  • Indoor and outdoor sporting events, competitions, shows and fairs are prohibited.
  • Outdoor activities are restricted to those that can accommodate 6-foot social distancing.
  • Minnesota State Parks and Trails remain open.

For specific information about restrictions and exceptions, please read EO 20-99 and visit the Minnesota Department of Health website for public information about COVID-19. 

Horse inside fencing on a dry lot.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our equine industry. Several organizations have united to bring guidance to equine-related activities in Minnesota while under COVID-19 restrictions. The collaboration of these organizations and the equine industry is critical as we collectively work to curb the community spread of COVID-19 while providing essential care for Minnesota’s equines, and safeguarding the physical and mental health and wellbeing of equine owners.

What is not permissible during Minnesota’s COVID-19 restrictions? 

Livestock exhibitions, fairs, camps, clinics, shows, and group lessons are prohibited.

What is permissible during Minnesota’s COVID-19 restrictions?

Equine owners, barn managers and service providers are permitted to engage in activity that supports equine health and maintenance:

  • Feeding
  • Stall cleaning and manure management
  • Turn-out and exercise
  • Riding and training
  • Breeding and reproduction
  • Veterinary care
  • Farrier care

Industries that support agriculture and the equine industry are allowed to operate, including, but not limited to:

  • Hay suppliers
  • Feed stores
  • Fuel providers

Conduct all equine-related activities while following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, including:

  • Stay at home when sick.
  • Frequent handwashing.
  • Do not touch your face.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment.
  • Maintain a 6-foot distance between others (social distancing).
  • 14-day quarantine if diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19.

Horse facilities may take these actions to effectively follow CDC guidelines

  • Schedule and stagger individual appointments to avoid person-to-person contact.
  • Limit time at facilities.
  • Sanitize commonly touched surfaces and shared equipment between uses.
  • Allow only owners at public facilities.

If facilities cannot effectively follow CDC guidelines, facilities may choose to close to all but essential employees who are responsible for daily care and maintenance of horses. Owners should respect and follow guidelines set by private facilities.

Obligation to care for equines is unchanged during COVID-19 restrictions

Owners and caretakers are obligated to provide basic care for all livestock and horses including feed, water, shelter, veterinary and related care, and turn-out during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Frequently asked questions

Can I go see my horse and ride?

Please respect stable owners’ policies intended to limit human exposure to COVID-19, even if that means barn visits are not permitted.

Can I move or transport my horse?

If necessary to ensure adequate care, you should be permitted to move or transport your horse. Social distancing and sanitation guidelines should be followed at all times.

Are farriers considered essential workers?

Yes. Animal husbandry is an essential service. However, farriers must follow social distancing and sanitation guidelines.

I’m a boarding stable owner. What rules should I adopt to balance the interests of horse care with preventing human transmission of COVID-19?

Stable owners may adopt rules intended to limit human exposure to COVID-19 while ensuring continued animal husbandry activities and services, and while following CDC guidelines

Please respect stable owners’ policies intended to limit human exposure to COVID-19, even if that means barn visits are not permitted.

I am facing economic hardship. What resources are available to help me care for my horses or support my equine business?

  • The Minnesota Horse Welfare Coalition assists horse owners experiencing hardships. To apply for assistance visit their website.
  • The Minnesota Horse Council has both the Temporary Emergency Feed Aid and Disaster Relief programs. Contact Dave Fleischhaker (651-402-5512, Superflei@yahoo.com) for assistance.
  • Some equine businesses and employees may qualify for state and federal assistance due to COVID-19.

My livelihood depends on horse breeding. Can I transport a mare across state lines?

If necessary to support animal production, you should be permitted to move or transport your horse; however, contact the state of your final destination to make sure it is allowed. Follow social distancing and sanitation guidelines at all times.

I understand emergency veterinary and farrier care are essential, but what about routine appointments?

If necessary for adequate care, you should be allowed to continue with routine appointments. However, some service providers may choose to see only emergency appointments to limit human exposure to COVID-19 while ensuring animal health. Please respect service owners’ policies intended to limit human exposure to COVID-19, even if that means restricted appointments.

How do I care for my horses if I become sick with COVID-19?

Horse owners should have plans in place to provide care for their animals if they become sick or hospitalized. At a minimum, this should include a description of your horse(s); their location; specific care and feeding instructions; name and contact information of service providers (e.g. veterinarian, farrier); inventory of feed, supplies, and medications; and a list of individuals and their contact information who are willing to provide care.   

Can COVID-19 be transferred between horse and owner or caretaker?

There is no evidence that horses can become sick with COVID-19 or transfer it to humans. However, human caretakers remain at risk and should follow CDC guidelines when caring for horses.

Will Certificates of Veterinary Inspections (CVI) and Equine Infectious Anemia (Coggins) testing requirements be waived or extended during the executive order?

No. While there may not be an immediate need for CVI and Coggins tests, Minnesota’s animal health regulations remain the same. 

Updated November 20, 2020

The following organizations and their representatives contributed to these guidelines:

  • University of Minnesota Extension (Krishona Martinson)
  • Minnesota Board of Animal Health (Courtney Wheeler and Brian Hoefs)
  • Minnesota Horse Council (Allison Eklund and Tom Tweeten)
  • Horse Welfare Advocate (Stacy Bettison)
  • Horse service providers (Kim Otterson)

Reviewed in 2020

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