February 15, 2008

How aware are you regarding disease threats to your horse at shows and events? In light of recent outbreaks of disease in both Europe and Australasia, being more careful about biosecurity isn't a bad idea.

How many times have you loaned a halter from someone, or a bit, or even a bucket? These are all items which could potentially cause the transfer of disease.

Knowledge and practice of basic biosecurity has become critical for horse health. Whether traveling, accepting new horses into a facility or performing day-to-day tasks around the farm, an eye to sanitation and disinfection, as well as proper vaccinations and veterinary care, will help assure a healthy environment.

In the US, for example, owners should be sure to maintain proof of vaccination for all of their horses, as well as an up-to-date Coggins test, according to Robert Holland, DVM, PhD, Senior Veterinarian at Pfizer Animal Health.

"It's also a good idea to keep daily temperature logs for your horses—particularly if they show signs of upper respiratory infections or other disease markers."

When at show grounds or events, attendees should avoid taking their horses to common water or feed areas and sharing water buckets, feed tubs, halters or other items that might touch a horse's mouth, nose or eyes. If you have to share items, be sure to follow proper sanitation and disinfection techniques first. In addition, any horse that shows signs of being unwell should be isolated as quickly as possible.

In order to properly disinfect equipment and tack, it's important to first remove all excess debris or dirt from them. Then, wash the equipment in a detergent, such as laundry or dish soap and rinse with clean water. Follow this by filling a bucket with properly mixed, commercially available disinfectant and dipping the items into the disinfectant solution. Be sure to rinse them with clean water at least twice after disinfection. Keep in mind that disinfection may be needed on items such as halters, grooming equipment, shovels and pitchforks. Stall walls and flooring can be treated in the same manner as needed.

Reducing equine disease transmission - hand hygiene study

A simple disinfection solution in a shallow basin as a foot bath can also allow staff to clean their shoes when entering or leaving the barn area. Hand sanitizers can help to curb the cross contamination that often occurs between horses as staff move from one horse to another during the day.

In some countries, a carefully designed vaccination programme, created in co-operation with a veterinarian, is one of the best means of helping horses remain healthy during the show season, and throughout the year. Otherwise, an eye on your own stable habits is critical.