Riders in Ontario, Canada: Riding through the worst of COVID?

Hello from Northern Ontario (Algoma region).

While my district has been extremely lucky throughout the COVID crisis (70 total cases since March, 0 deaths, currently 8 active cases, population roughly 100,000) , the province is certainly going through a tough time right now.

I’m struggling with the decision to continue riding at this point, knowing that our healthcare situation is precarious… I did stop riding for a bit in March/April but I’ve been riding almost daily since then.

Our hospital here is doing ok (no current covid hospitalizations locally) but traditionally any serious injuries/illnesses are sent to larger centres. That level of care might not be as available soon (now?).

Riding is risky business and I sometimes feel it’s irresponsible to keep doing it during the pandemic.

I don’t want to take up health care resources when someone else may need it more…

and I also don’t want to end up having a broken leg set in a hospital hallway, y’know?

Any thoughts on this? It’s weighing heavily on me now that the numbers are getting so bad…

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Well, riding outdoors is not a big risk for transmission.

As far as emergency health care for injuries, how likely is it you’ll come off and break something? What’s the risk factor for your riding ability, activity, and particular horse?

As an older rider I prioritize not falling off. Honestly not that many experienced riders fall off on the flat on well broke horses. It’s more likely with jumping, with green horses, and with less secure riders.

At this point, my lack of patience and judgement about “it’s irresponsible” are mostly directed at the idiots who disregarded health measures and made the pandemic spike again. I think people doing outdoor sports in a responsible way are not the problem.


I’d like to think it’s not all that likely that I would come off and break something… especially riding my well-broke horses, on the flat, in a small indoor arena. (Riding outdoors isn’t practical or fun at this time of year.) But they are horses, and you just never know.

Agree with Scribbler about this. I have cut back to pretty calm riding anyway, and I think I am being as responsible as possible in all activities where I might be in contact with people outside my bubble. I think I would spontaneously combust if I couldn’t get out of the house to the barn! My only other outing is groceries once a week.
My husband pointed out that if I DID have an accident, there is no-one around until the next scheduled rider so I might well expire and save hospital resources that way!

The first time around for lockdown people were unsure about transmission, about how hospitals would respond, there was a lot of unfocused anxiety and even guilt over whether you should be doing anything fun while the world is in crisis.

I think by now as we’re in this long term there is more of a sense that anything you can keep doing normally than keeps you healthy, grounded, sane, and does not increase the risk of transmission, is fine. People did worry in March about doing any sports that might cause injury and overburden the hospital, but I think that was just generalized anxiety.

People are still driving cars and having accidents and here in BC they are still overdosing on fentanyl at record levels, and also getting rescued out of back country avalanches.

I would say go ride your horse and let go of the idea that you shouldn’t be doing anything at all.


I am in southern Ontario and continue to ride as much as possible to keep my 24 year old horse and me moving. I ride mostly at a walk. My horse is shod for winter with pads. Not much one can do in the lockdown, but we are allowed to go see our horses and ride. Now we have this grumble grumble ice, as I only ride outside, no arena. Had a lovely ride yesterday in the woods and ice was very minimum on the trails. Even had a short canter in the snow. Not knowing all the facts of your situation, it is a judgement call whether to ride or not. Do what you feel to keep you and your horse safe etc. Even just take your horse for a walk etc. Good luck, stay safe and Happy New year!!!

Since the government has explicitly stated we are allowed to ride, I’m going to ride. In terms of risk I’m as likely to end up in the ER from a slip and fall on ice while walking my dog, but I continue to do that too. I think it’s smart to keep an eye on how burdened the hospitals are in your local area. At the moment it seems only a few in Toronto and Peel are really struggling, although of course that may change as cases will likely keep increasing for another 2-3 weeks.


:rofl: I like your husband’s sense of humour!

saultgirl, Freak accidents certainly can happen, but we can’t live like they’re going to happen to us. If you have a good horse their behaviour will warn you if it’s an off day and you can skip that ride. If you did come off the odds are that your injuries wouldn’t be catastrophic enough for your local hospital to send you elsewhere. And if they were, you would likely be sent to a hospital out of the Toronto area where the Covid-19 cases are lower and the hospitals not at capacity.

Do you drive to work? That is risky too. Honestly, if you have a fairly well behaved horse and can ride with a decent amount of skill I wouldn’t worry about it.

You can stay at home and easily break a leg or have an accident or require hospital care. Just pay attention to your horses mood/ attitude and enjoy riding.

I do drive to work and honest to god I will be reconsidering that if the hospitals get overwhelmed. Driving in the winter around here is pretty dangerous when we get white-out conditions and lake-effect snowfalls!

It’s a tough time for everyone, especially those with anxiety disorders :frowning: Also after months of very few/no covid cases, we have 11 in the last 2 days. Most people aren’t taking things seriously here so I’m sure when we see the results of Christmas/New Years gatherings it won’t be pretty.

I agree with the others. Keep an eye on how the local hospitals are doing. I have a couple friends who are nurses in Sudbury, things are pretty quiet there.

I’m in Simcoe-Muskoka and cases and hospitalizations are up. Based on where the barn is I would end up at a hospital that isn’t currently dealing with a Covid outbreak so that makes me feel better about riding.
As far as the most traumatic horse related incidents that I’ve witnessed in the last 20+ years? The ones that require air ambulance, and specialized care at Toronto hospitals? Those were all kicks to the head, no riding involved. Lunging, in gate, free jumping, and plain old turn out.

In Alberta, we are allowed to exercise our horses /ride, but not allowed to teach lessons, and are supposed to be only riding a horse for their health, so at my barn we aren’t jumping, and I set up “challenges” for each week to clients something to work on that I hope will keep their riding focused. When I am allowed to teach again, and if hospitals are still busy, I am sure I will be extra careful. What surprised me, is that a few barns are planning horse shows in January? Seems odd given we aren’t supposed to be coaching until at least after Jan 11.

The rules here are odd in that we are supposed to book individual barn times, but there is no limit to how many can be in the indoor? I am requiring people to book barn time, but I am ok with them riding with a buddy if they feel that keeps them safer, and I don’t feel two people in the barn at one time is a risk.

All my clients know that I will come out and help them if they feel unsafe, and will do training rides as needed to help them. We are all on the same page that overall safety is more important than any training for shows and such.

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My horse coped very badly with the first month of shut down so I moved her to a larger barn that offers self-care, brought her back to work slowly (she can be a pistol after a holiday) and have continued to work her since. Will I ride when I know snow is likely to slide off the roof of the indoor? Nope. Will I ride if the wind is high enough to make the indoor rattle? Nope. Will I ride alone? Yes … but I know my horse extremely well and know before I even get on whether she’s going to have a “moment” or not during the ride.

Both my horse and I need the normalcy of groom, tack, work in our lives. We can get that with very little risk of stressing the healthcare system. Your mileage may vary and for what it’s worth, I had the very same thoughts as you when the first lockdown started. At this point I’ve had long enough to ponder the fact that no horse has ever put me in hospital and to consider that having owned my current one for over 7 years, I have the judgment to know what is truly risky and what is not when it comes to working her.

Our rules say riding is ok. It’s each person’s own judgment that guides whether riding their own horse is safe or not. Look back at your own history with your current horse and make your decision based on that. It’s personal. If you don’t feel pretty close to 100% safe, don’t do it.

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I live in a part of Ontario that hasn’t been hit very hard either.

I totally agree with what the others have responded so I won’t waste time repeating it. But if you are that uncomfortable at the thought of riding… there is no shame in taking a break. Just because others (which I include myself in!) are comfortable riding doesn’t mean you have to be.


I thank everyone for their replies. I’m still riding for now and will try not to feel guilty about it.

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I am in Quebec, and riding is allowed for the moment, even private lessons or semi-private if all participants are from the same family (so my BF and I can still ride together). Honestly its the only thing keeping us sane and mostly out of a depression at this point, so we will continue going as long as its permitted. We are supervised on the trainer personal horses doing flat work, so risk of injury is as low as possible.

Im in the south east region, and am riding every day. We have cases in our area, not like GTA but not none either.

That being said, I have my own farm and have not extended outside of my bubble.

I’m near Kingston and have one of our ponies boarded out so my granddaughter & I can have an indoor. Kingston has had a slight increase in recent weeks, but we’re still very low. It is a smaller place…not a ‘lesson barn’, although the BO does teach a handful of boarders. We feel very safe there. There is sanitiser at the door and we all wear masks if there are others in the barn, but if I’m there on my own I do not.

I think it really depends on your barn. Ours is a private training facility, small number of boarders, rarely more than four people on the property at a time. We have a huge open tack room, separate grooming stalls and a large, well -ventilated indoor arena. Very easy to keep your distance from others at all times, and since Covid we of course also have scheduled time slots, no visitors allowed, disinfecting procedures, and no group events, schooling shows, etc.

The barn where my friend boards is also a private training facility but they treat it like a social club. There are usually 2 or 3 people riding at a time and at least 3 or 4 others sitting in the arena (with no distancing) watching. They are still having social events and clinics, sharing communal food, and bringing wine to the barn. It’s bananas! You can’t walk down the barn aisle without having to pass within inches of multiple people.

I am late to the party on this question, but am chiming in all the same.:slight_smile:

I live in the same area as @GoodTimes and would likely end up at the same hospital as her. :slight_smile:

The barn I am at has strict but fair protocols. I regularly book my time slots for barn access the same time, same days of each week.
I will keep riding for as long as I am able.

Like @BigMama1 has said, our potential to have an accident (both equine & non equine related) is the same as it was pre-Covid 19. I am not going to sweat the what-ifs.