The past few months has brought biosecurity to the forefront of everyone’s mind. COVID-19 has made us change the way we interact with people and the world around us. From wiping down your cell phone, practicing social distancing, to wearing a mask in public, we have established a new normal.
For horse owners, biosecurity is not a foreign concept. We are used to thinking about preventing viral and bacterial disease in our horses and if one ends up with something like “strangles” in their barn, a highly transferable upper respiratory infection, the barn is on high alert with separate cleaning tools, sanitation and no cross contamination of grooming tools or tack.
Equine biosecurity is the procedure designed to protect the horse population against harmful biological or biochemical substances. Equine biosecurity specifically refers to the precautions we take to limit the spread of disease when working with horses. These measures are vital to maintaining the health of all horses to keep them safe from infectious disease.
Most equine viruses are passed from one horse to another via blood through biting insects, such as horse flies, deer flies, mosquitos, stable flies or direct nose to nose contact. If you haven’t already, now is a great time to begin your own biosecurity procedures in your barn. Below are a few guidelines to help make your upcoming year a healthy and safe one.
Ask your veterinarian to conduct the annual “Coggins” EIA blood test on your horse. It’s required if you are transporting a horse across state lines. Also, ensure your horse gets all core and risk-based vaccines from your veterinarian.
Keep horses in segregated groups. Horses that travel off the premises frequently for shows should be kept separate from non traveling resident horses or broodmares.
At rides do not allow horses to group drink from same source, such as a bucket.
Don’t share grooming supplies, tack (such as bits), and equipment and disinfect between uses.
At shows or gatherings wash your hands or use hand sanitizer between handling or riding other people’s horses and ask anyone who comes in contact with your horse to wash their hands first.
Take your horse’s temperature and note what is his baseline temperature. That way you know if it becomes elevated it’s a warning your horse is getting sick.
Wash and dry saddle pads, towels, bandages and wipe rags between uses. Disinfect brushes and buckets often.
Don’t use multiple-dose medications (oral pastes, ophthalmic ointments, topicals) on multiple horses.
Make sure to institute rodent, bird, and insect control practices.
Do not allow horses onto the property without a health certificate and Coggins, plus proof of required vaccinations.
At your barn, isolate new arrivals from resident horses for at least two weeks and monitor them for signs of illness, checking temperatures twice daily.
If you go to horse shows or rides, monitor those horses for signs of illness for two weeks after their return; again, checking temperatures twice daily. Try to handle these horses last each chore session in case they are incubating an illness and wash your hands after contacting them.
When watering your horses, don’t submerge the hose in water buckets.
Clean and disinfect horse trailers between uses.