Maintenance of excellent health and biosecurity standards at the level of the farm is the MOST effective way of maintaining
an outbreak-free industry. All disease outbreaks have an index case and all index cases have a point of origin. Because
horses are usually maintained at a 'home" farm, then the origin of any outbreak should be traced back to the farm level.
Management and ownership of ANY farm can control disease outbreak and minimize risk to the industry. Control of disease at
the farm level is through 1) exit and entry, 2) population management, 3) proper disinfection and 4) preventative health practices,.
The focus of this discussion will be the first three. Finally if an outbreak occurs, the steps are outlined for outbreak
Exit and entry
Transport of sick horses onto a farm pose the single biggest risk for introduction of new diseases. Maintaining and adhering
to strict transport protocols is essential. Clients need to be educated that this is completely in their control. What comes
through the gate becomes their problem (and expense), what stays on the other side of the gate is someone else's problem.
Farm owners should have three simple expectations of transport into their farm: 1) cleanliness, 2) horses are free from disease,
3) accurate identification and health information is provided on every animal on transport. Seems simple but given the plethora
of people hauling their own and other horses all over the continent and throughout the world, not all will maintain appropriate
standards. Thus it is imperative that veterinary health professionals education their clients on this important element of
horse health. Finally, healthy transport is a welfare issue; horses undergo stress, are food and water deprived, and are
exposed to noxious substances in terms of air quality and infectious disease during transport. Minimization of these elements
ultimately is essential to the care and well being of animals.
Table 1. Concepts of healthy transport
Age and reproductive status management.
On multi-use farms, most biosecurity is aimed at protecting the mares and foals from infectious agents. This is important,
but the healthy performance population really needs to be protect from the mares and foals! Epidemiologically fecal pathogens
are MORE associated with young animals and, although not adequately, researched, the post-foaling and lactating is likely
to be shedding organisms with which she is chronically infected or habitually exposed. In addition, the older horse may be
prone to subclinical infections of many bacterial pathogens such as
Horses are not going to a dog park to play when they come to a new location. They do not need to romp around and get to know
all the other horses. They do not need to be socialized. All horses that are shipped on and off farms should be maintained
away from the resident farm population for a MININUM of 10 days and preferably 3 weeks. All temporarily stalled animals (such
as for breeding) should NEVER have contact with the resident population.
For any sick horse, traffic, quarantine, and barrier precautions need to be immediately instituted. Not all farms have quarantine
facilities and most do not! However, management can greatly reduce spread of disease and an outbreak.