COVID-19’s Effect on Maryland’s Horse Industry When Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a State of Emergen-

cy in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many equine businesses were forced to shut down. Although feeding and caring for horses and other livestock are considered “essential” under the Governor’s “Stay at Home” orders, many businesses reduced their staff or closed altogether. Te Maryland Horse Council and Equiery staff have been following the pandemic on the local, national and global scale and have been ad- vocating for you, our equestrian community. In order to better serve this community, MHC issued a survey asking business owners to share their COVID-19 experiences. Although we temporarily closed the survey as the June issue was being prepped for print, we are reopening the survey and ask readers to take a few minutes to fill it out. For those who have already done so, please send us updates as needed. MHC will be using this information to continue to rep-

resent Maryland’s equine industry during the state’s COV- ID-19 recovery period as well as to help shape future legisla- tive initiatives.

Business Adjustments Even if a business is considered essential, the Governor issued several

orders intended to protect employees and stop the spread of the virus. One hundred and seventeen business owners reported that they had to adjust their daily operating procedures; six stated they had no changes. Several lesson facilities reported that once lessons were suspended,

they reduced staff to essential feeders only. A few decided to turn lesson horses out to pasture in order to save money on bedding and labor while others attempted to keep lesson horses in light work. Most lesson barns reported that their monthly income has dropped considerably due to not being able to teach.

“Most clients appreciate our bio secu- rity and closing. Some have given me grief, but most of them have left us.” – Elizabeth Tate of Paradise Stables, LLC (Frederick County)

Our Community Over the course of three weeks, 123 equine businesses responded to

our survey. Te majority of businesses responding were those that offer riding lessons and training followed by boarding facilities. Horse sales, clubs and associations, competition facilities, veterinary and farrier care, horse rescues, and therapeutic riding centers were also represented. Oth- er responses came from contractors and barn builders, architects, judges, breeders, photographers, jockeys and more. Nearly all counties in Maryland were represented with Montgom-

ery County leading the pack with 18.7% of responses. Anne Arundel, Howard and Frederick Counties each comprised 13.8% of our survey partici- pants. Outside of Maryland, we had one participant from Virginia and one busi- ness located in Washington, DC, respond to the survey.

Employees & Staff In order to find out just how many

people are affected at these businesses, we asked how many employees work for each business as well as how many have been furloughed due to COVID-19. A plurality of businesses represented have a sole owner who is the only

employee (44.7%). A slightly smaller percent (40.7%) of responders employ one to five additional staff. Businesses with six to ten employees were rep- resented by 8.1% while those with more than ten employees were at 6.5%. Eighty-five businesses reported that they did not have to downsize due

to COVID-19 restrictions. Of those who did not downsize, 47 of them were sole proprietors. Tirty-eight businesses indicated they did have to reduce their staff numbers. Over 90 employees have been temporarily laid off and many clubs, associations and non-profit organizations and rescues are not able to have volunteers come to their facilities. Several business owners also reported that they had to reduce the hours of those essential staff needed for day to day horse care and were doing most of the work themselves. In total, 89.4% of the businesses in our survey reported that CO- VID-19 has had a negative impact on their monthly business income. | 800-244-9580

Te majority of boarding facilities

that responded reported that they closed their doors to boarders. Most of those stated they only allowed board- ers on the property if there was an emergency related to their horse. Al- though these facilities did continue to

receive monthly income from their boarders, some reported that day-to- day workload increased due to downsizing staff. Some boarding facility owners reported that they began to offer additional services to their cli- ents such as grooming free of charge, while others put together grooming and training packages for their boarders. A few boarding facilities remained open to boarders, but kept everyone

on a tight schedule to reduce the number of people on the property at any given time. Several boarding facility owners also reported that they were not taking on any new boarders during the shut down. Competition facilities shut down completely as the USEF suspended

“Te ambiguity in the directives was really challeng- ing. Leaving the decision to allow boarders to each barn [owner] left a lot open for interpretation. Some trainers were not only allowing boarders to come ride and visit their horses, they were [also] considering lessons ‘essential care’ for the horses.” – Ashley Beheler of Tara Equestrian Eventing, LLC (Baltimore County)

all competitions for much of March, and all of April and May. Some of these facilities did have income through boarding but those that only host competitions reported no income since the State shut down. With live racing in the state also shut

down, most trainers in our survey reported keeping their horses in work in order to keep employees hired. Exercising horses for the benefit of their health is considered essential. While veterinarians and farriers are

also considered essential, several reported changing the way they interact with cli-

ents. Dr. Judy Tubman of Kent Veterinary Center in Kent County ini- tiated curbside check-in for horses coming to the clinic. Dr. Tubman added that when treating horses at other facilities, “We ask that owners not be in the barn at the same time if possible.”

COVID-19 Relief Funds Te Maryland Horse Council has been active throughout the CO-

VID-19 crisis in bringing the latest information related to relief funds and even held a town hall webinar with experts explaining the various programs available. In our survey, we asked if business owners had ap- plied for a variety of state and federal grant and loan programs. We found that 29.3% of the business owners in our survey did not ap-

ply for any grant or loan programs. Most of those who did not apply for relief funds stated they attempted to apply but programs were closed too soon. Others said their businesses made too much money to qualify or had troubles qualifying due to being the sole owner/employee.

continued... JUNE 2020 | THE EQUIERY | 13

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