Biosecurity: How to protect your horse and yard from disease.

Biosecurity: How to protect your horse and yard from disease.

Every horse owner strives to protect their horses from injury and disease at all costs. But sometimes this is not always possible, but there are many things that can be done in yards to keep disease at bay. Ensuring you have good biosecurity measures and procedures in place will ensure you horse stays safe and well. World Horse Welfare have produced a brilliant information pack about biosecurity in yards, and this blog will provide you with the key information you need to protect your horse and yard.

How is disease spread?

Disease in horses is spread by many different methods, some of which include direct contact between horses, direct contact with other animals, waste products,biting insects, bodily fluids, dirty equipment, mare to foal, contaminated feed and water, vehicles, clothing and boots.

What are the best ways to prevent disease?

– Basic awareness of how disease spreads

– Maintaining good hygiene practices at all times (hand washing, cleaning utensils)

– Regular health checks on your horse (temperature, pulse and respirations, worming programmes and egg counts)

– Keeping a health record of all horses on the yard that anyone can access in case of emergency.

– Isolating a horse that is showing signs of illness (especially symptoms such as runny nose, coughing an elevated TPR readings)

What happens when a new horse comes to your yard?

In an ideal world, you would have access to the new horses health records, passport and paperwork to ensure they have not been in contact with any contagious viruses or diseases, that they are up to date with vaccines and worming. When the horse first arrives, it should ideally be isolated from the other horses for up to 21 days, which will ensure they are clear of any infection or disease, without posing a rick to the other horses on the yard.

What do you do if you suspect a horse is ill?

The most important part of dealing with a potentially ill horse is to remain calm and to ensure it is dealt with swiftly, especially if a contagious disease is suspected. Again, in a perfect world, every yard will have a isolation stable, that is away from the normal yard. Each isolation stable should have its own tools, utensils, muck heap, a dedicated person who deals only with that one horse (to prevent spread of disease), foot baths and overalls.

If you suspect a horse has a disease, isolate the horse as immediately and call the vet to make them aware of the situation. Follow veterinary advice on how to care for the ill horse. Ensure only one (or two people if needed) take care of the isolated horse. It should have its own utensils, tools, feed buckets, bedding and muck heap. Ensure the same person deals with the horse during treatment and recovery, to minimise the chance of spreading the disease. Having one key person to care for the horse also ensures that they know how the horse is progressing and they can notice any subtle changes.

It is important to monitor the horses health during its illness, by taking temperature, pulse and respiration offetern and noting down any changes. The horse should be kept in isolation until the horse is clear of all symptoms and has been visited by the vet and given a clean bill of health.

If you have an outbreak of a contagious disease, do you have to let anyone else know?

If your vet confirms the presence of a contagious equine disease, they will instruct you to notify other local yards of the outbreak. This is to ensure that no other horses are exposed to this disease. Competitions, transporting horses, moving horse to different yards, lessons at riding schools or turn out may all have to cease until the yard is clear of the disease.

What are the most likely diseases to be seen at yards in the UK?

– Strangles

– Equine Influenza

– Tetanus

– Equine Herpes Virus

– Ringworm

– Salmonellosis


If your suspect a horse on your yard is ill, isolate them as soon as is possible and phone your vet and follow their advice!