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Putting preventive measures in place to keep animals healthy has been a long-standing and successful practice on Canadian farms. Biosecurity planning helps to ensure that practices routinely carried out on your farm are beneficial to animal health.

Best practices in disease prevention include a combination of following a vaccination plan and taking biosecurity preventative measures on your property, while traveling, at events, and when caring for your horse. Suggested biosecurity protocols differ depending on the situation and location.

These preventative measures are vital to maintaining the health of all horses regardless of their use.

Prevention is Key

Does the equine industry face high biosecurity risks? Yes! The transient nature of the equine industry is generally high, so practicing and incorporating biosecurity measure in to everyday routine is critical to reduce risks. Pay mindful attention when attending cattle events with your horse or commingling as horses can transmit disease such as foot-and-mouth disease to other livestock.

A few things that everyone can do to help prevent the spread of disease:

Optimize Resistance to Disease

  • Vaccinate. The first step to prevention is to keep your horse on a vaccination program that takes into account his/her job (pleasure horse, show animal, working animal, breeding animal, companion), general health status (age, history of illness, etc.), amount of travel, and location (some regions pose more risk of disease than others). This vaccination program should be discussed and implemented with your veterinarian.
  • Reduce Stress. Stress can compromise the horse’s immune systems and make him more susceptible to infection. Happy horses are more likely to be healthy horses. Make sure the housing and turnout offer the best possible options for your horses.
  • Optimize Nutrition. Good nutrition keeps your horse strong and healthy and ensures the horse has a better chanced at fighting off possible infections.

Reduce Exposure

  • Practice Biosecurity. Use all resources to determine what aspects of your horses’ daily lives that put them at risk for disease and establish a plan for reducing those risks.
  • Limit horse-to-horse and horse-to-human interaction. This one is easier said than done given the gregarious nature of the horse but is vital to horse health. Horses and humans can be carriers for the pathogens that cause disease. Establish groups of horses on your facility to reduce intermingling and encourage all humans to avoid interacting with multiple animals without disinfecting between contact.


Equine Biosecurity Guidelines: Safeguarding Health Through Prevention and Protection

Effective biosecurity measures implemented by equine owners protect horse health and help prevent disease outbreaks that can have potentially devastating consequences for the herd.

Shows and Competitions

  • Be aware of and adhere to all biosecurity guidelines at the venue.
  • Ensure all horses are vaccinated. Consult your veterinarian for vaccination protocols and frequency.
  • If your horse is showing any signs of illness (such as a snotty nose or coughing), do not take them to a show or competition; isolate them from all other animals.
  • Clean and disinfect horse trailers prior to transporting horses. If you can smell any lingering horse odor, it has not been cleaned adequately.
  • Use your own trailer and avoid transporting horses from other facilities.
  • Clean and disinfect any stalls that your horse will be using while away from home before you unload the horses.
  • Avoid letting your horse interact with other horses or animals, especially nose-to-nose contact.
  • Do not share equipment, brushes, water and feed buckets.
  • When filling buckets, hold the hose out of the water to prevent contamination.
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially after handling other horses.
  • Refrain from letting anyone touch your horse, especially those who have been in contact with other horses.
  • Before leaving a show or event, thoroughly clean and disinfect all tack, footwear, equipment, and grooming supplies. Remove dirt or manure from gear, then disinfect using sprays or wipes.
  • Upon returning home, shower, blow your nose, and change into clean clothes and footwear before interacting with other horses.
  • If feasible, quarantine the returning horse(s) for a minimum of two weeks, preventing any nose-to-nose contact to minimize the risk of spreading infections.

New Arrivals at your Farm or Facility

  • Quarantine new horse arrivals for 30-days. Allow visual contact with other horses or other measures to help reduce separation anxiety.
  • Clearly identified quarantine areas with signage.
  • Label waterers, feed bins, buckets, tack, and equipment clearly to identify the horse they’re for. Avoid using this equipment for other horses, especially those outside the quarantine area.
  • Cleaning equipment such as shovels and manure forks should be designated for use in quarantine area.
  • Handle healthy horses before those that are new or ill. Alternatively, wear dedicated footwear and outerwear when attending to quarantined or isolated horses, removing these items before approaching or interacting with other horses.

Visiting or Working at other Equine Facilities (Farms, Event Centers, Auction Marts)

  • If you work at another facility have designated footwear and outerwear or coveralls for that facility.
  • Clean and disinfect footwear and outerwear before moving between facilities or returning to your facility.
  • If you are using disposal boot covers or outerwear, dispose these items on location; do not bring them back to your facility.

Any visitor(s) to your facility can pose a biosecurity threat of introducing illness to horses on the property.

Visitor Policies for Your Facility

  • Control access to your equine facility.
  • Establish a single designated entrance clearly labeled as the main entrance.
  • Keep parking areas away from the horses to avoid disease-carrying organisms being tracked in on vehicles.
  • If the farrier or veterinarian requires parking closer, ensure their tires and footwear are clean and disinfected.
  • Farrier and veterinarian equipment should undergo disinfection between groups of horses.
  • Maintain a visitor’s log; in the event of a disease outbreak, this log can assist in tracing the issue.
  • Provide a disinfectant foot bath or disposable footwear covers and disposable coveralls for visitors.

Products to Effectively Disinfect

Label all containers used to mix or store disinfectants.

Household Bleach

  • Mix 3/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water (16 cups). If you don’t have a measuring cup, use a ratio of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. This solution effectively disinfects footwear, grooming equipment, buckets, shovels, and pitchforks.

Spraying Disinfectant

  • Select a product labeled for destroying bacteria and viruses. Sprays are effective for disinfecting footwear, grooming equipment, and tack.

Hand Sanitizers

  • Available in gels or wipes, hand sanitizers are convenient for use at shows or after visiting other horses. Ensure thorough application by working the sanitizer between fingers and under fingernails.

Other Commercial Disinfectants

  • Always adhere to mixing and usage instructions on the label. Look for products that remain effective even with a small amount of dirt or manure on the surface. These disinfectants are suitable for trailers, tires, and can effectively be used in foot baths.

Effective Disinfection of Equipment and Footwear

Ensure the area is well-ventilated when using disinfectants.

  1. Ensure surfaces are clean before applying disinfectant
    • Remove loose dirt and manure by wiping or brushing off.
    • Ideally, wash the item with detergent first such as laundry, dish, or saddle soap.
  2. Rinse to remove any soap residue.
  3. Apply the disinfectant
    • Tack can be wiped with a disinfectant wipe, or a cloth dampened with disinfectant.
    • Equipment such as pitchforks, wheelbarrows, stall mats, or walls, can be sprayed with disinfectant.
    • Footwear can be brushed or scrubbed off and then sprayed with disinfectant.
  4. Allow the disinfectant to sit for the recommended time specified on the product label. This typically ranges from a few minutes to 10-15 minutes.
  5. Wipe down or rinse thoroughly with water and allow time to dry.

Effective cleaning and Disinfection of Horse trailers

  1. Preparation
    • Ensure the washing area is inaccessible to animals to prevent ingestion of disinfectant.
    • Remove all equipment, bedding, and debris from the trailer.
    • Sweep or vacuum the interior to remove loose dirt and debris.
  2. Cleaning
    • Wash the interior surfaces of the trailer with a mild detergent and water solution. Use a scrub brush or sponge to ensure thorough cleaning.
    • Pay close attention to areas where dirt and manure may accumulate, such as floor mats, walls, and dividers.
    • Rinse the trailer thoroughly with clean water to remove any remaining soap residue.
  3. Disinfection
    • Prepare a disinfectant solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions or use the instructions above.
    • Apply the disinfectant solution to all interior surfaces of the trailer using a sprayer, sponge, or cloth. Ensure thorough coverage.
    • Allow the disinfectant to sit for the recommended time specified on the product label. This typically ranges from a few minutes to 10-15 minutes.
    • After soaking, rinse trailer thoroughly with clean water to remove disinfectant residue. The trailer should be odor-free after cleaning.
  4. Drying
    • Allow the trailer to air dry completely before loading horses or equipment.
    • Keep the trailer in a well-ventilated area to aid in the drying process.
    • Disinfect any equipment that will be reintroduced into the trailer, such as mats, buckets, or grooming tools.
    • For added protection, you may choose to apply a residual disinfectant spray after the trailer has dried completely.

YOU are the best protection your horses have!