Horse Entrepreneurs and Their Customers as Partners in Combating the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Preliminary Study of the Principal-Agent Relationship

Horse Entrepreneurs and Their Customers as Partners in Combating the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Preliminary Study of the Principal-Agent Relationship

Heli Irmeli Koskinen
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7495-9.ch007
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Customers can be important partners and a resource for entrepreneurs during a pandemic situation. In this study, the utilization of this resource was investigated from the perspective of horse entrepreneurs. Firstly, the communication activity of horse entrepreneurs in their social media platforms was inspected, and secondly, a risk assessment for each horse premise was performed. As a result, a variation of communication activity of horse entrepreneurs was found between the northern and southern parts of Finland, and different risk levels of horse premises can be shown. In Northern Finland, 25% and, in Southern Finland, 43% of horse entrepreneurs gave COVID instructions to their customers. Risk levels varied from moderate to unacceptable. Many factors affect the risk level of horse premises, and it is not always in the hands of a single horse entrepreneur to guarantee a healthy environment to customers. Rather, it needs an investigation of the hygiene behaviour of customers and partnership with customers.
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In spring 2020, when coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic had spread all over the world, also several entrepreneurs of equine industry had to rethink their everyday routine. Sport events were cancelled also in Finland and many entrepreneurs of sport and fitness field had to close their doors. Horseback riding is not a sport with close contact between humans, but COVID-19 restrictions have an effect on daily routines in horse premises including the decreased number of customers in same rooms at same time, avoiding human contacts between riders of a same horse and in general, taking care of the those at a highest risk. For instance, riding lessons of those with intellectual disabilities were cancelled because it is not sure if they can take care of themselves without close contact to their assistant. In addition, concerns about an illness of workers and the consequent concern for the welfare of horses together with decreased incomes had been emerged.

In Finland, equine industry has an effect on employment with its 15,000 employees (the Finnish Trotting and Breeding Association, 2019) and 3,000 full or part-time horse-related enterprises (Pussinen & Thuneberg, 2014). Equine-related activities, in general, are among the fastest growing and the most promising rural industries in both the European Union and the Finnish rural context (Häggblom, Rantamäki-Lahtinen, & Vihinen, 2012; Leppälä, Lunner Kolstrup, Pinzke, Rautiainen, Saastamoinen, & Särkijärvi, 2015; Rantamäki-Lahtinen & Vihinen, 2004). In Finnish Trotting and Breeding Associationʼs statistics in 2019, 160,000 Finnish people have a riding hobby in 225 riding schools or 147 other horse enterprises and 620,000 people participate in races of trotter horses.

In Finnish horse industry it was mainly concluded that the horse entrepreneurs continue their professional business but with some exceptions. Instead of closing the doors, control of coronavirus infections was done in collaboration with customers. It is the responsibility of every human in stable to take care of his or her own hand and general hygiene and leave home when symptoms of flu have been detected. Thus, the customers have a resource to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 in horse stable environment; a critical resource, which every horse entrepreneur can be utilized. Among rural veterinarians and infection control authorities, customers are an important group of people who have interests in the horse entrepreneur’s ongoing business and therefore, in a pandemic situation, can be defined as a one important stakeholder.

Finnish New law in 2021: 76/2021 obliges that everyone who participates in investigating, handling, caring, transportation, euthanizing, slaughtering, hunting or percussion of the animal and has an observation or a suspicion of occurrence of an infectious animal disease has a duty to notify the veterinary authority. Thus, all the people who are involved in these animal-based activities are defined as stakeholders. Based on the European Parliament Directive of Zoonosis (2003/99/EY) fully implemented in Finland, Finnish authorities has a duty to monitor the occurrence of zoonotic, transmissible between humans and animals, diseases regularly. The Member States of EU must ensure co-operation related to zoonosis, foodborne outbreaks and antimicrobial resistance between veterinary, food safety, and healthcare authorities (Zoonosis Centre of Finland, 2020). On the other hand, in Finnish administration participation of the citizens in governmental processes is widely encouraged. Right of participation in governmental procedures is required by such laws as law on municipality, law on youth and some laws on health care. Nowadays it is taken granted that citizens are important stakeholder for the authorities in all levels of administration. Rather than only citizens or stakeholders, they are seen as customers of national administration.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Stakeholder: Anyone who has interests of organizational business issues (owners, sponsors, customers, contractors, authorities). Interests can be financial, legal or value-based.

Social media: Media with more opportunities to share a common understanding in communities compared to traditional one-way information transmission media.

Principal-Agent Relationship: An arrangement in which one entity, e.g. legally (authority), appoints another to act on its behalf.

Potential Problem Analysis: A simply method for risk assessment based on the probability of an event and the severity of this event.

Pandemic: Disease outbreak that has spread worldwide. Another important pandemic in 2000s was swine influenza pandemic.

COVID-19: An infectious disease mostly with respiratory symptoms. SARS-CoV-2 virus causes the symptoms of COVID-19 disease.

Risk Communication: Communication about real-time facts in crisis situation. Communication can be dissemination of expert knowledge or two-way communication between all involved.

Biosecurity: The operations that are implemented towards entry and spreading of infectious agents (pathogens) in farms. Cleaning and disinfection are a central part of biosecurity.

Authority: Organizations or representatives of these organizations that have power over citizens. This power was based on national or international legislation.

Zoonosis: A disease, which can be transmitted from animal to human or vice versa. Important and widely known examples are swine and avian influenza and rabies.

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