We've undertaken a nationwide survey of livery yards and riding schools to find out more about the challenges facing these businesses at the moment. The survey found that the effects of Covid-19 are far-reaching in the industry, but that some unexpected positives have been found. Reassuringly, many responses indicated that support is out there for yards – for those who know where to look.
Two-thirds say income hasn't returned to pre-Covid levels
Initially, this survey was organised to find out how our commercial customers’ businesses are faring at the moment, and to use the responses to put things in place to help provide support.
Our digital marketing manager, Katie Oswald said: “Many of our commercial customers are concerned for the future of their businesses – around two thirds of respondents reported that their income has not returned to pre-Covid levels. Plenty of yards have accessed support from both the government and charities, including the British Horse Society. But we have found that there are plenty who are unsure where to turn to for help – whether that be seeking financial support or advice.”
Half of the respondents applied for government grants
The results of the survey highlighted the important role government and charity grants and funding have played in helping yards since the first lockdown in March. Several respondents said they had benefitted from the British Horse Society hardship fund.
The need for clear communication – and knowing where to access information regarding financial support and advice were found to be lacking for some livery yard and riding school owners. One respondent claimed that “the support is there but people don’t know about it.”
Fifty percent of survey respondents applied for business grants funded by the UK and devolved governments, whilst 13% each applied for the coronavirus job retention scheme and charitable funds – including the BHS hardship fund. Twenty-four percent of yards have applied for government-backed accredited loans, whilst a surprising 34% of yards in the survey have not applied for any grants or funding from government or charity.
Furloughing staff not practical
Another common theme amongst respondents was the impact that the return of business rates will have on yards that are already down on income. A cited concern was that furloughing or laying off staff was not practical as animals still need caring for. Whilst nearly 50% of respondents said they turned horses out for the duration of the spring lockdown to reduce costs, this may not be an option as we head into Winter in lockdown number two. As a result, yard owners could face high wage, feed and bedding costs and reinstated business rates in the face of a much-depleted income.
Encouragingly, nearly two-thirds of livery yards and riding schools surveyed said that interest in the service they provide has either remained the same or increased since lockdown. Other comments made by respondents reinforced the benefits of outdoor activity. These included mentions of a surge in interest in riding lessons prior to the second lockdown and appreciation of having the opportunity to take part in an outdoor activity. One respondent said: “parents are trying to get their children into the countryside and we have lots of new riders since we reopened.”
We have a strong belief in ‘putting something back’ into the markets in which we operate. As part of this ongoing support, the first SEIB Livery Yard and Riding School Awards were held in January 2020. These awards were introduced to celebrate and reward excellence in livery yard and riding school businesses which have variously been described as the ‘backbone’ of the equestrian industry. The results of this survey into the impact covid-19 has had on livery yard and riding schools will help provide further support at this much needed time.
SEIB have been arranging Horse Insurance, Livery Yard Insurance and Riding School Insurance for over 50 years. If you would like to request a quote for your Livery Yard Insurance please click here. Most of our horse insurance team own and ride horses themselves and have a true understanding what makes a good livery yard and how much work goes into making one successful.