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COVID-19 Focuses Attention on Biosecurity

Posted in Home Page articles, horse-shows-clinics, horse-health, Equestrian News

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Steve McConnell still wakes up with a smile every day, knowing that he’s doing a job he loves.

By Karen Dallimore.

COVID-19 hasn’t really changed life for Steve McConnell. It’s almost business as usual, barely missing a stride. He’s still even forging ahead with his own late April wedding plans.

As a 34-year veteran farrier based in Waterdown, he’s trimming fewer horses under tighter biosecurity measures, but he still wakes up with a smile every day, knowing that he’s doing a job he loves.

Steve doesn’t wear a mask; it’s just not practical and basically useless while doing his job. Instead, he’ll be careful not to touch his face and he’ll sanitize his hands and tools after each barn so that they’ll be dry and ready for the next call. During his training in England last fall he took a course in equine biosecurity and had already implemented good habits, but the pandemic has heightened awareness of their importance.

Sure, it’s a bit different at the barns now but, “things are fairly normal, day-to-day,” admits Steve. “There just aren’t as many people coming and going.” He arranges his schedule to accommodate staying out of the way of the barn staff, looking to reduce contact with people. That may mean working in the afternoon at a self-care stable, allowing the people to finish their work in the morning.

He doesn’t work alone either, preferring to keep a conscientious handler at the length of a lead rope, an interpretation of social distancing for equestrians. And he won’t be catching horses any time soon; they need to be in and ready.

“It’s been a great way to educate clients about proper etiquette,” said Steve. Now, when he asks that no one walk through an area where he’s working or not hang out too close while he’s underneath a horse, they listen.

These days, Steve is doing two barns a day at most. In terms of business, it means doing less horses in a day. “It’s costing more to earn less,” Steve told The Rider.

One of the greatest challenges has been keeping the owners involved. “They can’t always be there,” said Steve, who will send a quick text to directly contact owners. “This all takes time.”

The majority of his clients, encompassing all breeds of performance horses, are still working their horses and are still getting shoes. In some cases, it may mean stretching out trims or resets, maybe extending a four to five-week trim schedule out to six or seven weeks, for example.

He has offered his services to fellow farriers in the event that they are affected by COVID-19 and can’t attend their clients. Two farriers have taken him up on the offer so far, thankfully not due to illness but due to quarantine restrictions, and in both cases, he pulled the shoes to help maintain the horses until those farriers can come back. It is common for farriers to look after each other in times of need.

It’s that community spirit that Steve believes will help the equestrian community come through this pandemic. “We just want to do what’s best for the horses,” said Steve. “Horse people want to help horse people. That’s what is going to get us through this.”

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