Equine Biosecurity and Best Health Practice - For Equine Industry Service Providers
Note Number: AG1362 Published: August 2008
The purpose of this document is to provide all equine industry service providers and owners with practical information on how they can manage their day to day activities and be better prepared should the need arise.
Until August 2007 the Equine Industry in Australia had been very fortunate not ever having experienced the far reaching effects an exotic disease can have on an industry. While the Equine Influenza (EI) was successfully contained and eradicated, the outbreak highlighted the importance of ongoing biosecurity.
Good on-farm biosecurity and personal hygiene is important not only in the prevention of exotic diseases but any infectious disease that can affect horses.
It is important to remember that "prevention is better than cure". Just as horse owners and property managers need to do everything to reduce the risk of an infectious disease being introduced to their property and spread by themselves or the horses in their care. As a Service Provider you need to implement good day to day biosecurity practices to protect your livelihood and ensure you are not the source of spread of infection.
What is Biosecurity?
Biosecurity is a set of disease control measures designed to break the cycle of and reduce the spread of, infectious diseases.
What is a Service Provider?
A service provider is a professional who provides a service to the equine industry. There are many individuals providing services to the equine industry who, in the course of providing this service, come directly into contact with horses. Service Providers may be visiting or non-visiting some are combination of both. This is important when talking about biosecurity as many of these individuals have their own horses at home and the risks can be overlooked.
Examples of visiting service providers are: Farriers, Dental Technicians, Veterinarians, Riding Instructors, Saddlers, and Knackeries, Horse Breakers/Trainers, Stable Hands/Grooms, Masseurs/Chiropractors, fodder delivery person.
Example of non-visiting service providers are: Trail Riding Establishments/Groups, Agistment Centres, Horse Breakers/Trainers, Stable Hands/Grooms.
Attending Properties (Coming and Goings)
The risk of coming into contact with a diseased or ill horse as part of your daily work is high and you may not even be aware that the horse is ill. This risk can vary depending on the type of service you are providing. For example a veterinarian undertaking invasive procedures or tending to a serious injury would be more at risk than a saddle fitter and or masseur. Nonetheless, good biosecurity practices which address the risks involved need to be put into place and become part of your everyday routine.
Simple Steps Service Providers can take:
- Before you enter the property make sure you have clean equipment;
- Observe the biosecurity measures the property may have in place;
- Park in one spot rather than driving all over the property (some stables may have a designated parking spot);
- Larger stables may like to provide their own equipment for you to use when you visit;
- Only touch the horse/s you are there to deliver the service to;
- Dispose of any bio-hazards i.e. caps, wolf teeth and water/disinfectants in the manure pit;
- Dispose of any infectious materials i.e. used needles, scalpels, blood soaked items via the appropriate method;
- Clean and disinfect your equipment once you have completed your service before moving on to the next property;
- Wash your hands thoroughly before leaving;
- Keep detailed records of the properties you have visited and horses you provided service to (dates, time, address etc);
- Have equipment and clothing and boots for work purposes only. Keep this separate from your own horses and ensure your vehicle is kept clean.
Clients Visiting Your Property/Place of Business
So far we have looked at the Service Provider visiting properties to conduct their business but some also have clients visit them. There are simple steps that Service Providers can take to protect horses they may have at their property or prevent disease spread from horse to human.
In addition to the above, the following simple measures can be put in place to address the risks presented by visiting clients:
- Have only one entrance and a designated parking area for clients preferably away from resident horses;
- Have a designated area for horses to be tied up or yarded;
- Keep a record of visitor's i.e. date, time, name and purpose of visit.
- Wash your hands, change your clothes and disinfect your boots before handling resident horses.
Good husbandry practised on a day to day basis is the most effective way to reduce the spread of diseases. But this requires co- operation of both parties i.e. Service Provider and the person in charge of the property. It is important that expectations are made clear and discussed.
Signs of Illness
As a Service Provider it is important that if you suspect a horse of being ill you bring it to the attention of the owner and if the service you are there to provide can wait, do so until the horse is given the all clear.
Likewise owners should not expect a Service Provider to treat an ill horse unnecessarily.
It is very important if you have a high number of horses fall ill or any sudden unexplained deaths that you call your local vet or the Animal Disease Watch Hotline without delay. Do not allow anyone to come in contact with your horses and do not remove any deceased horses until your vet has assessed the situation.
How to Disinfect
There are three steps in order for this process to be effective:
Step One – Remove Loose Material
Surfaces must first be cleaned in order for disinfectants to be effective. Ensure all manure and dirt is brushed off the surface.
Step Two – Wash
Wash the item or surface with warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly and dry.
Step Three – Disinfect
Once item or surface is dry disinfectant can be applied. Tack items and footwear can be wiped with a disinfectant wipe or can be sprayed with disinfectant and wiped over with clean dry cloth.
Horse Transport vehicles and floors of stables can be sprayed with disinfectant made up in a spray bottle or larger surface areas (weed sprayers are ideal for this).
Always wear gloves when mixing up disinfectants, read manufacturer's instructions and be careful with your clothes and equipment.
Bleach (any bleaching agent containing hypochlorite)
Mixing one part bleach to 10 parts water is a cost effective way to disinfect buckets, stable forks and shovels, and grooming equipment.
Any quaternary Ammonium Compounds. Make sure you mix up as per instructions on label. These are good for disinfecting inside of transport vehicles and tyres, stable floors and walls, and stable equipment. Some are suitable for footbaths.
These are readily available now in all supermarkets. Make sure they kill both virus and bacteria. Wipes are quick and effective for wiping over helmets and tack without the use of water.
Disinfecting a Person
Soap and warm water is sufficient for skin.
Waterless Antibacterial Hand Gels
These are available in gel or wipes at most supermarkets and pharmacies.
Any hand wash that has Chlorhexidine compound used in most hospitals and veterinary surgeries.
Please note: In rare cases some people can be hypersensitive to Chlorhexidine so it is recommended that products containing Chlorhexidine not be used on damaged skin surfaces of allergy sufferers.
DEPI Victoria Agricultural Note AG0753 - Diseases of Horses Notifiable in Victoria for full list of Diseases
DEPI Victoria Agricultural Note AG1285 - Health and Biosecurity Guidelines for Transport of Horses
DEPI Victoria Agricultural Note AG1361 - Equine Biosecurity and Best Health Practice – For Holding Equestrian Activities
DEPI Victoria Agricultural Note AG1360 – Equine Biosecurity and Best Health Practice – For Equine Owners
This Information Note was developed by Samantha Forrest, Chief Veterinary Officers Unit, Attwood. August 2008