Equine Biosecurity and Best health Practice - For Equine Owners
Note Number: AG1360
Published: August 2008
Updated: May 2010
The purpose of this document is to provide all equine owners with practical information on how they can manage their day to day activities in relation to the health care of their horses.
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. The outbreak of Equine Influenza (EI) highlighted the need for horse owners to include bio security in their day to day dealings with horses. While the EI outbreak was successfully contained and eradicated, horse owners should not underestimate the importance of ongoing bio security. 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 up to all horse owners and people employed within the industry to ensure these practices are implemented as part of their husbandry regime to ensure their horses health.
Whilst some owners may think that this won't apply to them it is important to remember that "prevention is better than cure". Every horse owner needs to do everything they can to reduce the risk of an infectious disease being introduced to their property and spread by themselves or the horses in their care.
What is Biosecurity?
Biosecurity is a set of disease control measures designed to break the cycle of and reduce the spread of, infectious diseases.
The most common way infectious diseases are spread is via a new horse arriving at the property. Even though the horse may not be showing symptoms it could still be a carrier of disease. A veterinary examination is recommended prior to purchasing a horse. Depending on where the horse has originated from, the veterinarian may advise for specific tests to be conducted to rule out infectious diseases.
Upon the arrival of any new horse to the property is it advisable to:
- Isolate from the resident horses for at least two weeks;
- Check the horse twice daily for signs of illness, taking the horses temperature in addition to monitoring food and water intake;
- Make sure you have separate equipment for the new arrival (stable/yard equipment, buckets, grooming supplies, and tack etc);
- Handle the newly arrived horse last, morning and night, or put on disposable overalls and change footwear (remove before tending to other horses on the property);
- Wash your hands upon leaving horse's yard.
Attending Activities (Coming and Going)
Horse to horse or human to horse contact with an infected horse at an event/activity is another common way disease is spread. Simple Steps owners can take at events:
- Take your own equipment (buckets, tack and grooming supplies);
- Do not share your equipment;
- Do not use communal water troughs;
- Monitor your horses health while at the event;
- Avoid tying/yarding your horse with other horses so there is minimal direct contact;
- Wash your hands if you have touched other peoples horses;
- Monitor your horses health upon retuning home and where possible isolate for two weeks and avoid nose to nose contact with other horses on your property;
- Keep records of horses movements on and off the property (dates, time, venue etc);
- Clean and disinfect your float/truck, tack, grooming equipment and stable equipment immediately upon returning home;
- Do not touch other horses at your property till you have showered, changed your clothes and clean and disinfected your footwear.
Visitors to Your Property or Horse
So far we have looked at disease spread from horse to horse but many diseases can be spread just as easily from human to horse. This can be from the owner visiting a horse on another property or someone visiting your property; this could be a friend or a service provider like farrier, dentist, vet, or riding instructor.
Simple measures owners can put in place with people visiting their property:
- Have only one entrance and a designated parking area for visitors away from the horses;
- If a service provider needs to park closer have an area for this;
- If you have many different visitors coming and going you may like to have foot baths at the entrance;
- Be well set up for visitors to wash hands and disinfect equipment e.g. anti bacterial hand gels, disinfection wipes, spray pack with disinfectant etc.
- Keep a record of visitor's i.e. date, time, name and purpose of visit. On larger properties record details of horse/s the visitor came in contact with.
- Simple measures owners can put in place if they have been in contact with other horses away from their property:
- Wash your hands, change your clothes and disinfect your boots before handling horses on your property;
- If you work in the industry or regularly visit properties with horses keep a detailed log of where you have been;
- If you work in the industry or regularly visit properties and take any equipment, make sure it is cleaned and disinfected before using on other horses or your own horses;
- If you work in the industry and visit many properties have equipment and clothing and boots for work purposes only. Keep this separate from your horses and ensure your vehicle is kept clean.
The problem of nose to nose contact over neighbouring fencing lines can be managed by double fencing and the planting of trees between fences. Electric fencing will not completely eliminate contact but it can serve as a deterrent to most horses if the other options are not available.
Good husbandry practised on a day to day basis is the most effective way to reduce the spread of diseases. Horses should be checked daily to ensure they are healthy and not at risk of injury. Worming and vaccination programs should be implemented and records for each horse should be maintained.
Where horses are stabled or yarded it is important that manure is cleaned up twice a day and disposed of properly.
Keeping vermin and insects under control is also important in preventing spread of disease. Steps to deter insects and vermin can include having the manure pit emptied regularly, having feed in vermin proof containers, disposing of old and un-eaten feed and limiting spots for vermin to hide and breed.
Keeping equipment and tack well cleaned and washing and rinsing of feed and stable water buckets daily is also recommended. Water troughs in paddocks should be cleaned weekly.
Ensure prompt removal/ hygienic disposal of deceased stock.
Signs of Illness
Any horse that is suspected of being ill must be isolated immediately. Call your local vet. Do not handle any other horses until you have changed your clothes and washed your hands.
Wash and disinfect any gear and equipment including rugs, halters and leads, feed bins, water buckets, and grooming equipment that have come in contact with the horse.
In Australia it is recommended that horses be vaccinated against Tetanus and Strangles.
When vaccinating against tetanus and strangles a full course must be given over a period of four weeks then an annual booster is required.
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.
Spray Disinfectants – 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.
Anti-bacterial/Alcohol Wipes – 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 – Soap and warm water is sufficient for skin.
Waterless Antibacterial Hand Gels – These are available in gel or wipes at most supermarkets and pharmacies.
Chlorhexidine – 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 AG1362– Equine Biosecurity and Best Health Practice – For Equine Service Providers
This Information Note was developed by Samantha Forrest, Chief Veterinary Officers Unit, Attwood. August 2008.
It was reviewed by Roger Paskin, Biosecurity Victoria. May 2010.
Published and Authorised by:
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
1 Spring Street
This publication is copyright. No part may be reproduced by any process except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968.
The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. The State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication