COVID-19 Update for Equine Operations

Interim Guidance for Equine Operations

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets released the following Interim Guidance for Equine Operations on June 11, 2020.

This guidance is provided for equine farms, consisting of recreational, boarding and breeding operations. It does not apply to racing and other equine competition venues.

On March 7, 2020, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued Executive Order 202, declaring a state of emergency in response to COVID-19. Community transmission of COVID-19 has occurred throughout New York. To minimize further spread, social distancing of at least six feet must be maintained between individuals, where possible.

On March 20, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.6, directing all non-essential businesses to close in-office personnel functions. Essential businesses, as defined by Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) guidance, were not subject to the in-person restriction, but were, however, directed to comply with the guidance and directives for maintaining a clean and safe work environment issued by the New York State Department of Health (DOH), and were strongly urged to maintain social distancing measures to the extent possible.

A phased re-opening of New York State is underway. Due to their open space and outdoor nature, activities associated with the equine industry are permissible so long they are consistent with the outlined requirements. The industry must adhere to all social distancing, cleaning, and sanitation guidelines.

For purposes of this guidance, equine activities include: the breeding, boarding, exercise, and transport of horses, the riding of personal horses at boarding facilities, and the oversight or instruction of riders.

*Please note that where guidance in this document differs from other guidance documents issued by New York State, the more recent guidance shall apply.

Required Operating Procedures

Equine farms must comply with all NY Forward, Phase One: Agriculture Guidance, including “Non- food Related Agriculture Summary Guidelines.” Also, they must read and affirm the detailed guidelines for non-food agriculture. They must also develop and implement a business safety plan.

Additional required operating procedures include:

  • Viewing of horses for sale/breeding, conducting riding lessons, and any riding of horses may be done in an outdoor or indoor arena/area and by appointment only. There shall be no more than ten individuals in a group at any one time, including, but not limited to instructors, judges, owners, and customers/clients. All interactions must adhere to strict social distancing of six feet between individuals.
  • Transportation of horses between equine facilities and/or trail systems should consist of only those passengers necessary to assure equine safety and well-being. Face coverings must be worn in the vehicle if social distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Frequently clean and sanitize surfaces, including vehicles, trailers, and riding equipment. Particular attention should be paid to high touch surfaces, including door handles and shared equipment.
  • Hand sanitizer, consisting of at least 60% alcohol, should be made available to customers.

Required Face Coverings

On April 12, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.16, directing essential businesses to provide employees, who are present in the workplace, with a face covering, at no- cost, that must be used when in direct contact with customers or members of the public during the course of their work.

On April 15, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.17, directing that any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face-covering must cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, social distance. On April 16, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.18, directing that everyone using public or private transportation carriers or other for-hire vehicles, who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering, must wear a mask or face covering over the nose and mouth during any such trip. It also directed any operators or drivers of public or private transport to wear a face covering or mask which covers the nose and mouth while there are any passengers in such a vehicle.


Equine farms must post Stop the Spread signage (alternative languages for the signage are also available) in conspicuous locations and follow the proper hand washing/hygiene protocol:

  • Regular hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds should be done:
    • Before and after
    • After sneezing, coughing, or nose
    • After using the
    • Before handling
    • After touching or cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated, including face, hair, cellphone, or
    • After using shared equipment and
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or the corner of
  • If soap and water is unavailable, using an alcohol-based sanitizer consisting of at least 60% alcohol.
  • Dispose of soiled tissues immediately after use in a trash

For Additional COVID-19 Information:

The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has created an official COVID-19 resource page offering details and latest guidance as it relates to agriculture in the state.

The Cornell Small Farms Program is keeping a list of resources for farms to build resiliency through potential impacts from COVID-19.

The Cornell EDEN website is the hub of information for COVID-19 issues and resources.

The Cornell Ag Workforce is a great resource for updates on labor management issues and programs and policies related to ag workforce issues and COVID-19.

The Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University answers questions around the risks associated with food production with useful links to expert resources to ensure that a safe and robust food supply is maintained.

Kacey Deamer

Kacey is the Communications Manager for the Cornell Small Farms Program. In this role, she manages all storytelling and outreach across the program’s website, social media, e-newsletter, magazine and more. Kacey has worked in communications and journalism for more than a decade, with a primary focus on science and sustainability.
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