Over the past few days, the Governor’s Office and the Maryland Department of Agriculture have released several executive orders and guidance concerning the current COVID-19 pandemic that has halted many industries across the country. As our Equiery readers are very well aware, these orders have significant economic impact on the Maryland horse industry as well as emotional impacts on the equestrian community. We want everyone to know that we understand how stressful a time this has been and we along-side our parent organization, the Maryland Horse Council, are here for you.

MHC has received tremendous feedback as well as questions about its recent social media posts concerning Governor Hogan’s Executive Order, issued on Monday, March 23 closing all non-essential businesses as of 5pm that evening. The information provided both here on The Equiery’s website and on MHC’s website, as well as the social media platforms of both, is information from the Governor’s Office and from the MDA. This information has not been developed, mandated or interpreted by MHC or The Equiery. We are presenting our readers with facts, not interpretations.

In response to several questions from the Maryland horse community, MHC reached out to MDA again this morning (Wednesday, March 25) for clarification on how horse farms fall within the “essential” agriculture definition. Below is MDA’s modified guidelines regarding horse operations.

“1. The statement put out by MDA/MHIB yesterday was approved by the Governor’s office. The points made in that statement are considered guidelines and not law. The law is no more than 10 people in a gathering or on a farm at one time and to practice social distancing of 6 feet from another person.

2. Farm owners/operators decide who is considered essential staff. That can include exercise of horses. Exercise of horses is considered recommended care. However, if the farm owner wants to exclude all people from his/her property that is their right, including full care boarders if they regard them as non-essential. If they regard them as essential care, they can allow them on, but they must practice social distancing and no more than 10 people at one time.”

MHC also was in communication with the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel about interpreting the Governor’s order #20-03-23-01 in Interpretative Guidance COVID19-06. Below is the statement from the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel:

“At this time, the Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”) recommends that the Administration interpret the above-referenced Order as follows:

  • Staff Access to Non-Essential Businesses. The Order requires businesses, organizations, and facilities to close to the general public. This does not prohibit staff from being on-site as reasonably necessary for the purposes listed below, if this can be accomplished in a manner consistent with all applicable guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), the Maryland Department of Health (“MDH”), and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) regarding social-distancing and environmental cleaning and disinfection:
  • Caring for live animals”

The Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel further advised:

“This Interpretive Guidance may be revised or rescinded at any time. Citizens are urged to consult with their own legal counsel for advice about the application of the Order and this Interpretive Guidance to their particular facts and circumstances.”

MHC has recommended that farm and business owners consult their legal counsel and insurance carriers about potential liability for claims by clients and staff that might result from exposure to COVID-19.

For a full statement from MHC on this subject, click here: https://mdhorsecouncil.org/mhc-news/item/336-covid-19-update-more-clarifications-from-mda-for-stable-horse-owners

In the meantime, we at The Equiery and Maryland Horse Council will continue to provide our readers and members updates as they become available from the Governor’s Office and MDA.

Stay safe and healthy!