Escape from the grip of the dreaded coronavirus for horse and pony enthusiasts has disappointingly not quite turned out as I had hoped it might.

Instead of the relatively carefree lifestyle offered in the company of our four-legged friends, many restrictions have emerged in one way or another as social distancing rules apply and placing undue strain on the NHS through accident is the responsibility of all. Horse owners are no exception.

This all comes at a time when the weather is improving and beckoning us all outdoors and government advice is urging us all to take daily exercise. I suspect that doctors wouldn't agree that horse riding comfortably fits into this latter category.

Ironically, I have heard and read time after time that many competition yards have roughed off their leading horses only to be bringing on their youngsters and novices which, realistically, are much more unpredictable and likely to cause accident, so where's the sense in that?

A good friend told me about two consecutive accidents she sustained pre-coronavirus which were incurred leading two young horses out to the field. No activity with equines is free from potential risk and as a result owners are facing a real dilemma as what to do best in the interests of themselves, the care of their equines or the greater good of the country through a coping NHS.

It's a hard one and I, for one, don't have any answers other than suggesting that falling off a horse/pony should be avoided if at all possible since head injury and intensive care seem to go hand-in-hand. Specially for those whose livelihood depends on riding, I appreciate that this is easier said than done.

Nevertheless, I do have to wonder at the sense of some owners who think it's all right to turn up at livery yards (often in number) and more so for yard owners who allow them.

I understand that well organised set-ups have put in place a timetable and rules on numbers visiting in order to ensure social distancing. Other yards have insisted that they take over full livery for the time being.

It must be so frustrating as an owner not to have free access but easy to understand and comply if one of your nearest and dearest is infected with Covid-19 and worst still in hospital and fighting for life.

For all of us, we have to hold on to the promise of restrictions being lifted sooner than later and to the time when we can all return to what we enjoy most which is being with and caring for our equines. This may seem to be a great sacrifice added to all the other restrictions currently in life, however history will confirm that it was all necessary.

One of the major concerns for all animal owners is that of veterinary care and specifically the lack of free access to it in the current climate. We have to bear in mind that our vets have an equal responsibility to conform to the government guidelines on self-isolation as the rest of the population and vet practices are the same as many other businesses with responsibilities to both staff and clients.

Like my own at Loch Leven Vets, I understand that most have issued clear guidelines for clients to follow and many have used technology to embrace problems being encountered when appropriate, or possible to resolve without their presence.

One thing for sure, I am confident that the health and welfare of our equines will not be compromised in any way when emergencies arise.

The timing of the lock-down could not have come at a worst time for vaccination schedules, particularly when mandatory vaccination rules have come into place for all competition animals following last year's equine 'flu' epidemic when racing was halted for several weeks.

I am sure that this politically powerful industry is currently placing great pressure on the governing regulatory bodies of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to lift restrictions on routine veterinary visits which would cover things such as health checks, lameness diagnosis, 'flu' vaccinations and castrations.

To date, the BEVA is holding fast on current restrictions, with exceptions being made for emergencies with the caveat that all visits will be risk-assessed and each case considered on an individual basis.

It is important that we should understand their dilemma. Animal welfare will always be at the centre of veterinary considerations and I am confident in our veterinary profession that common sense and practicability will prevail.

At the end of the day, standard precautions will have to be enforced including social distancing with owners/staff and assessment of risk which may put individuals in danger and the resultant risk to them and added pressure on the NHS.

With fewer horse/ponies in work, needless to say there will be fewer calls for the vet presently just as weekends and local holidays never seem to be just as busy for call-outs.

I wonder if the present situation will clarify in our minds the need for veterinary treatment, especially emergency call-outs at unearthly hours of the day. I have to admit to feeling a certain amount of guilt here as, inevitably, difficulties during foaling happen during the dead of night when the warmth of the duvet is much more attractive than the chill of the foaling box.

At the risk of tempting fate, we find that few deliveries in themselves are problematic, possibly due to the fact that we have native ponies which are naturally programmed to easy foaling. That said, it is not uncommon for a retained afterbirth to be a cause for concern.

Some mares are consistently good at pushing it out very quickly after the foal arrives, while the odd one can hold on to it for what seems to be an eternity. With the risk of peritonitis if it is not removed in entirety or torn during removal, it is definitely one job which demands veterinary expertise – so an untimely call-out might be on the cards.

Despite the difficulties which new life can bring, I have to mention the wonderful arrival of foals, that annual feast of anticipation.

That time where anxiety is intermingled with delight and when the sight of a healthy new-born brings a smile to the face. There's nothing like it, although the sight of grass and greening fields comes a close second particularly in Scotland where recent sunny days have been tempered by low temperatures.

Foaling almost never goes without its challenges and regular readers will remember Gladys, our orphan foal from last year, which is thankfully growing on well.

All seemed to be going well this year until a young maiden mare, who looked nowhere near foaling, produced her foal unannounced one night in a big pen with four other mares. Having missed the event, I can only assume that everything seemed to have gone well had it not been for the fact that another mare had decided to steal the foal and claim it for her own.

I have to say it was a lovely sight seeing this otherwise empty mare trotting round the pen as proud as punch having gained a foal without any of the responsibility of either carrying it or producing it for that matter. All the time, the young mare looked totally bewildered and quietly heart-broken.

In the 40-plus years of breeding ponies at Waxwing, I have to confess this isn't the only time this has happened as it has occurred twice previously with a positive outcome on each occasion.

The other two mares foaled outside during the day when foaling took a more natural progression at the stud, contrary to the cosseting which prevails today.

Mothering instinct is an amazing phenomenon – in one case it was brought about by the loss of a mare's foal and the other two were mares which weren't in foal but which have foaled before and just wanted one without thinking of the consequences of distress to the rightful mother.

Luckily, no harm was done when the foal was 'rescued' and returned to its rightful mother and importantly she still wanted the filly and the filly was keen to suckle since she still had a healthy suck reflex intact.

This wasn't the case for one of the stolen foals which had lost the notion to drink due to the time it had taken for us to discover the theft. Thankfully, a friend from Wales with a similar experience just happened to be visiting and she sorted out the problem with much patience, honey on her finger followed by more of the amber nectar on the mare's teats.

We named that foal Waxwing Living Dream, one of a famous family many of which had qualified for the ridden pony classes at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in their day.

Talking of which, the concern which I expressed over the possible loss of the Royal Highland Show (which we all know has since been realised) has now moved on to HOYS.

While its date in the first week in October may well escape the lock-down as the restrictions will, hopefully, have eased across the country, I very much doubt if there will be concessions for mass gatherings by then so in practical terms it won't prove a viable proposition for the organisers, Grandstand Media.

Talking last week with Grandstand Media boss, Sandy Anderson, I know that he is keen to go ahead with this annual extravaganza for no other reason than to give the equestrian world a glimmer of hope at such challenging times.

In many ways, the equine industry depends on this event to give it the kick-start it requires to fire back into life. However, as a responsible boss he has to put first the health of staff, stall and ticket-holders alike and is very aware of the role he must play in acting responsibly especially at a time when the NHS needs all the support it can get to cope with Covid-19.

While still placed in the balance, it's still systems go with the end of July being the critical date by which a decision must be taken as to the future of HOYS in 2020.

Rest assured that Mr Anderson, a determined Scot, will make it happen if at all possible.