With the coronavirus pandemic expected to continue for an unspecified length of time, horse industry businesses have been considering how best to reduce the spread of the virus, maintain a healthy environment for staff, horses, and clients, while also operating effectively. In many operations, participants can easily maintain a physical distance of two metres, which provincial and federal governments continue to encourage to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19. However, some businesses have shared spaces - for example, tack rooms at boarding facilities - where riders and owners are more likely to touch the same surfaces. As such, riders, trainers, owners, grooms, transporters, professionals, and caregivers who work in the horse industry are struggling to figure out how to operate in these uncertain times.
Fortunately, there are some practical solutions.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Mike King has been discussing risk-reducing tactics specific to COVID-19 with horse industry clients. King is a partner at CapriCMW Insurance, the insurance provider and risk management partner for most Equestrian Provincial/Territorial Sport Organizations (PTSOs) in Canada, and says many businesses are thriving by understanding the potential risks they and their clients face, and subsequently changing some everyday practices.
King says the horse industry insurance policies administered by CapriCMW have been in effect throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, understanding government and health regulations is an imperative first step for business operations at this time, along with accessing information provided by Equestrian Canada and the PTSOs. Due to the pandemic, governmental policies have restricted the movement of people and the operation of many businesses. Therefore, government and health authorities have provided specific guidance and protocols for ongoing business activities.
King’s advice reflects these directives. “We urge everyone to establish a written protocol for sanitization, social distancing, the movement of people and horses as applicable to their specific site and business, and then seek approval from the local health authority,” he says.
Educational signage, sanitizing sprays, personal protective equipment, specific timetables for activities, and risk acknowledgement forms for clients and staff to sign, are a few of the things to consider.
Once a business has established new protocols, it makes sense to educate clients and staff about those protocols. This is a great opportunity to advise clients about changes to operating hours and services, as well as how the business is helping keep clients and horses safe during the pandemic. Plus, since risks associated with the pandemic are constantly changing, business owners need to stay on top of directives from provincial health organizations and revise their business protocols accordingly.
By now most Canadians are well-practiced in reducing their risk of exposure to COVID-19 and are willing to enact new procedures to help reduce risk to others. As such, altering horse industry business operations to reflect our changing times is acceptable to most consumers and clients.
However, it’s important to note that operating a business during a pandemic has inherent risk. Nobody wants to get sick or spread this virus to others and it’s up to everyone to try to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 as much as possible.
Bear in mind that insurers around the world are preparing, or have already imposed, specific exclusions related to the contraction of COVID-19 and other communicable disease at places of business.
As operators prepare their new risk management plans, they should assume the mindset that unlike most other risks inherent in equine activity, COVID-19 is not, or is soon to be not, an insurable risk.
One strategy that has appeared in the last few weeks to mitigate, but not eliminate, liability is the use of specific risk forms for COVID-19, and we strongly urge all operators to use them.
Fortunately, with some good planning and protocols, communication, and education, many horse industry businesses can, and are, successfully operating during these challenging times.
Mike King is a Partner and Equine Industry Leader at CapriCMW. As a lifelong horseman, he is a national figure in this specialized field and has been an equine specialist in the insurance industry since 1993.
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