Selecting a Farm, Arrival, and Quarantine Procedures for Owners
The first step in choosing a new farm is to match the nature of your horse’s travels with other horses at the farm. Do the horses at the farm stay primarily at home or do they often travel long distances to large shows? If your horse never leaves the farm, it is important to choose a farm where many of the horses do the same to reduce the number of potential exposures to pathogens.
The density of horses on the farm can also have an impact on the level of biosecurity that can be achieved. Less densely packed farms allow each horse to have more room, while more densely packed farms mean horses are more likely to interact with each other or people. This encourages the spread of pathogens through nose-to-nose contact or hand-to-horse contact.
Evaluate the design of the barn. A barn with excellent airflow and ventilation will reduce the risk of airborne pathogen transmission and toxic gas buildup. Fans and windows are helpful for air circulation but cannot overcome a very poor design. Hazy air and the smell of ammonia when you enter the barn are signs of poor air circulation, insufficient bedding, or improper stall cleaning.
While stalls with windows that open onto the aisle are nice, they allow horses and people to interact more than with closed-off stalls. Nose-to-nose contact between horses and human-to-horse contact can spread pathogens. Stalls with doors facing the outside of the barn help to reduce unwanted interactions along the aisle but may increase interactions with humans or animals on the outside of the barn. Outward-facing stalls will help with better air circulation, too, lowering the risk of pathogen transmission. Runs that allow for fence-line contact also pose an extra risk because of increased contact between neighboring horses.
Feed should only be stored in a secure feed room. Tack rooms should be cleaned regularly.
Farm Selection Key Points
- Make sure your horse’s activities are similar to those of the other horses at the farm.
- The barn should have good air circulation.
- Stalls and paddocks should be designed to minimize horse-to-horse and human-to-horse contact.
Your horse should be healthy before transport. Prior to interstate travel, a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) is required. Remember that a CVI only ensures that the horse was healthy at the time of examination; an illness could have been acquired in transit or progressed to the clinical stage during that time. Contact your veterinarian and double-check the entry requirements of the destination state. You can find this information on the state’s Department of Agriculture website or by calling them. Most states require current Coggins test results (negative EIA virus test).
At least a few weeks prior to moving, have your horse vaccinated with all core vaccines and any risk-based vaccines depending on the new location and your horse’s health. Reference the current AAEP list of core and risk-based vaccines. Your veterinarian will be able to guide you on which vaccines are appropriate. If you have your horse regularly vaccinated, continue on that schedule unless there are additional vaccines needed before the move. Vaccination two to four weeks prior to transport is important so the immune system has time to respond before the stress of travel and acclimating to a new place. If your horse has never been vaccinated, make sure to schedule the initial vaccination and any boosters at least two to four weeks before you plan to move him/her.
Shipping (especially long distances) can weaken your horse’s immune system, thus making him/her more susceptible to infectious diseases. After unloading your horse, they should be placed in a quarantine area at the facility. This reduces the chances of your horse contracting a disease and spreading it to other the horses on the farm.
Arrival Key Points
- Your horse should be healthy, vaccinated, have a negative Coggins test, and have a CVI before travelling.
- Make sure your horse goes directly to a quarantine area upon arrival at the new farm.
The quarantine stall should be freshly cleaned and disinfected it should be located 35 to 200 meters away from other horses. Direct contact between your horse and others should not be possible. Your horse’s temperature should be taken soon after arrival and recorded. For the duration of quarantine, his/her temperature should be checked every 12 hours (for seven to thirty days depending on perceived risk).
You should not touch your horse and then touch another horse while he or she is in quarantine. Before interacting with another horse, thoroughly wash your hands.
If your horse needs exercise during his or her quarantine period, work with the barn manager about when to use the arena or round pen. Plan to exercise your horse when you are least likely to encounter another horse. Make sure to minimize the time in shared spaces and thoroughly disinfect anything your horse touches.
- Brazil TJ. Isolation of infectious equine cases. Equine Vet Educ. 1995; 7(4): 220-224.
- Barros ATM, Foil LD. The influence of distance on movement of tabanids (Diptera: Tabanidae) between horses. Vet Parasitol. 2007; 144: 380-384.
- USDA Biosecurity Tips for Horse Owners (PDF)
- EDCC What is Biosecurity?
- AAEP Recommendations for a Biosecurity Program
- AAEP General Biosecurity Guidelines (PDF)
Quarantine Key Points
- The quarantine stall should be separated from the resident horses and prevent direct contact between the quarantined horse, other horses, and people.
- Your horse’s temperature should be taken every 12 hours during quarantine.
Moving Horse from Quarantine to General Population
Your horse should be moved to a clean, disinfected stall. Between the last resident and your horse’s arrival, the floor, walls, buckets, etc. should have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Clean and disinfect anything your horse touches when using shared facilities for the first several days.
Moving a Horse Out of Quarantine Key Points
- Your horse should be moved into a thoroughly cleaned and disinfected stall.
- Continue to disinfect anything shared that your horse touches for the first several days.