Infectious diseases such as influenza and equine herpesvirus can come home with you via exposed horses, tack and equipment, and even on your skin and clothing. Here’s how to avoid these scenarios and keep your horses healthy. As defined by the USDA, biosecurity means doing everything you can to reduce the chances of an infectious disease being carried onto your farm by people, animals, equipment, or vehicles, either accidentally or on purpose.

Reducing the Risks

“There are things you can do to reduce the chances of introducing disease. it is difficult to completely eliminate the introduction of disease agents, Horse owners need to realize there’s a difference between infectious and contagious disease.  Exposure might occur at a show or trail ride, from horses across the fence, or a new horse brought to the farm. Some farms have a buffer zone—a double fence between properties, with a lane between. If horses are socializing across the fence, you and your neighbor should agree on a preventative medicine plan, so you are both on the same page regarding management for disease prevention. Vaccination can be a critical aspect of controlling infectious diseases because in many instances owners can’t prevent exposure. “But remember that vaccination can’t prevent disease in all the animals, for all the diseases we are concerned about,” she says. “Vaccines perform better if we keep the disease challenge lower.” Water sources can be an issue if your horses drink from a pond or ditch shared by neighboring horses, livestock, or wildlife. Some diseases such as leptospirosis and salmonellosis can be spread this way. It might be safest to have your horses drink from a waterer or tank where you have more control over the source and the delivery method. Regarding physical separation of horses (of unknown disease status), many people wonder how far away and for how long a new horse should be kept separate from other horses on the farm.

“Influenza, for instance, can be spread to other horses within 150 feet. That’s at least 10 stalls away. If visitors come to your farm, there’s a need for them to wash their hands or clean their footwear. The extent of a disease outbreak on your farm from that exposed horse could be reduced if you take action quickly once illness is detected.

There’s always some risk in taking horses off the farm, but the safest events are where all the arriving horses need a health certificate and vaccinations.

Isolating a Sick Horse

Take temperatures on horses returning from show  since fever is often the first sign of disease,” If a horse has fever, your initial response might be to move horses away from either side of him and monitor them–rather than moving them to another barn.

Avoid Bringing Disease Home

It’s not just your horses that interact with other horses and carry diseases home. Always wash your hands afterward. Horses can shed disease agents even if they look healthy. “If you take your horse somewhere, take you own water buckets, don’t share equipment.

Prevention generally is easier than cleanup, especially when it comes to contagious diseases. Take these measures to reduce the likelihood of a disease hitting your farm.