Breeding and horse exercise advice during the ‘Stay at Home’ phase of Covid-19

  • 1 April 2020, 17:38

The Government has announced significant public health measures to prevent the spreading of Covid-19. In certain limited circumstances, there are exceptions allowed for some workers in key businesses but for the majority of people, the rule is simple: Stay at home.

The Government have given guidance for employers and employees and the self employed, including farmers, to decide whether you are providing an essential service. It is not necessary to seek official authorisation – it is up to you to objectively and fairly make the assessment in each case, taking into account the spirit of these measures which is to keep you, your family and community safe.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have provided a Frequently Asked Questions document as assistance based on common questions the Department has received. However, the Department, nor indeed Horse Sport Ireland, are the arbiter in these matters, you must make your own decisions based on the facts of your own case and bearing in mind that many tasks can be postponed for the duration of the ‘Stay at home’ phase.

Among the FAQ it is important to note the following which are specifically applicable to Equine Farming,
Q. Is transporting a mare for breeding purposes considered an essential service?

A. Yes. Currently there is no restriction on the movement of animals within the country for farming purposes, including for breeding. HSE public health guidelines must be observed at all times.

Q. Can I move my animals? / Can I move my animals more than 2 kms?

A. Yes. The current advice is that you can move animals as part of the business of farming, which is an essential service. There is no restriction on the distance, however one should reflect on whether such movement is actually essential at a particular point in time.

Q. Will the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine be issuing letters/certificates to show that someone is an essential worker?

A. No. There is no need to seek official authorisation from the Department. Farmers, and other self-employed workers, should carry one form of identification in case they are stopped by An Garda Síochána. Employees engaged in essential work should carry either a work identification card or a letter from their employer indicating that they are an essential employee and one other form of identification.

FAQs about the ‘Stay at Home’ phase

FAQ’s Regarding Covid-19 for Animal Owners

The Department’s public offices are closed to the public for the present, however, a new telephone helpline to assist farmers with their queries in relation to current COVID-19 restrictions will be in place from 1 April and the dedicated phone number is 076 1064468.  The phone lines will be open from 9.30am to 12.30m and from 2pm to 5pm.

Further information is available on the DAFM website HERE

Additional Horse Care and Exercise advice during Covid-19

  • Extra care should be taken not to take undue risks when handling and exercising horses at this time, due to the increased pressure on the hospital system due to Covid-19. Therefore, precautions such as lunging fresh horses prior to riding or using horse walkers if available, should be taken.
  • The primary aim is to take care of the health and welfare of our horses, while also preventing any unnecessary accidents. As the virus can also be spread through contact points, be mindful to take extra precautions to prevent covid-19 virus transfer on taps, hoses, buckets, tack and equipment.
  • Many feed suppliers have put in place measures to limit face to face contact on their premises such as payment online and over the phone.  Please contact your feed supplier before arriving at the store to check protocols.
  • Ensure all bio security and human health preventative measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are adhered to at all times as outlined by the


Additional Breeders advice

  • Recent Government Guidelines have clearly stated that all unnecessary travel is currently not permitted. However, those involved in the following activities are deemed essential services. Farmers, farm labourers, farm relief service workers and others involved directly or indirectly in crop and animal production and related activities (including veterinary services), and workers involved in fishing.
  • Consider adjusting the optimum timing for mating your mare if possible. The use of Artificial Insemination (AI) can be tremendously advantageous in sport horse breeding and reduce significantly the requirement for breeding animals to physically move to visit a stallion.
  • Veterinary practitioners will be following the Veterinary Council of Ireland Guidelines (link HERE). Please check with your own Veterinary practitioner.

There has been some uncertainty among breeders in Ireland as to what effect the requirement to stay at home would have on horse transportation. Horses for farming/breeding and foaling purposes can be transported. However, the following precautions should be considered:

  • Check with the stud that you intend to travel your mare to that it is accepting mares.
  • You should make direct contact with the stud farm prior to departure, familiarise yourself with their protocols and ask for confirmation of your covering time to be sent to your phone.
  • In the event you are stopped by the authorities, inform them that you are carrying out a permitted farming activity.
  • When transporting your mare to a foaling farm, breeders should make sure they have one official form of picture identification with them and, if appropriate as an employee, have a letter from your employer indicating that you are an essential employee. Ensure you have the mare’s passport and any documentation provided by the stud farm.
  • There should be no unauthorised stops on route from your farm to the stud farm.
  • Continue to ensure that you take all additional precautions to prevent spread of the virus through tack and equipment by taking all precautions.
  • Ensure all bio security measures and prevention of Covid-19 measures are adhered to at all times as outlined by the
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