Horses grazing in a pasture

Horse Handling

It is essential that barn staff have good horse handling techniques. If they are not already experienced, teach them these techniques and make sure to check in on them occasionally to correct any bad habits.

If owners are unsafely handling their horses, be sure to correct them, as well. Posting signs or instructions can also remind people about proper horse handling skills.

Horse Handling Key Point

  • Train staff and owners to handle all horses correctly.


Separate paddock fences by 3 feet to prevent contact between horses in different paddocks. Pick up feces frequently. In private turnouts, clean and sanitize the water bucket between each horse using the paddock. In group turnout situations, clean and sanitize the water bucket/trough at least weekly. Mow grass to 4 inches or less. Additionally, remove any brush from the paddock or pasture.

Paddocks should be kept separate from any natural water sources on the property.


Horses in a pasture

Paddocks/Pastures/Fields Key Points

  • Separate paddock fences by at least 3 feet.
  • Pick up feces frequently.
  • Give horses in private turnout their own water buckets that are sanitized between horses.
  • Group turnout water troughs should be cleaned and sanitized at least weekly.
  • Eliminate vector harboring by mowing grass and removing brush.
  • Exclude natural water sources when building paddock fences.

Horse-Specific Equipment

Do not share water and feed buckets among horses without proper disinfection between uses. Have dedicated equipment for each horse that remains in the stall or near them. Halters, especially, should be dedicated to a single horse because these come into close contact with many bodily fluids and entry points into the body.

Horse Specific Equipment Key Point

  • Each horse should have their own dedicated equipment, including water and feed buckets, halters, and other stall equipment.

Barn Equipment and Shared Areas

Disinfect shared equipment in the barn frequently. This includes crossties, pitchforks, hoses, and other supplies of that nature. Also, clean and disinfect shared areas. Communal grooming areas, tack room doors/handles, and any other shared spaces fall under this category. When refilling water buckets, do not allow the hose to hang below the surface of the bucket. Additionally, when not in use, do not leave it lying on the ground–wrap and hang it up to prevent the spread of disease.

Keep all equipment required for that part of the farm in the quarantine area, such as food and water buckets, stall cleaning materials, a thermometer, trash bags, trash cans with lids, and personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE includes disposable gloves, disposable or reusable shoe covers/boots, and disposable or reusable coveralls. Bring a multi-day supply of feed and bedding to store in the quarantine area when a horse moves in to reduce movement in and out.

Barn Equipment and Shared Areas Key Points

  • Disinfect shared equipment and common areas frequently.
  • Refill water buckets keeping the hose above the surface of the bucket and do not leave the hose on the ground.
  • Keep the quarantine area stocked with all barn equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Move a supply of feed and bedding there when a horse enters quarantine.

Waste Management

Provide separate equipment for feeding horses and removing waste. Make sure to label them as such so boarders and employees do not mix them up. If feeding equipment is accidentally used for waste, thoroughly clean and disinfect it before reusing it for food.

Waste, such as manure, used bedding, and old food, should be stored as far away from horses as possible, in a location where runoff will not enter equine housing areas. Contain it in a dumpster, plastic bin, or concrete pit/bunker. Remove it from the premises at least every seven days. However, do not spread it on fields that horses are currently using. This can spread pathogens to the horses on pasture. In paddocks that horses are not using, dragging the field to spread manure is an option; to kill parasites, this should be done on a sunny, dry day, and horses should stay out of that paddock for two weeks. This should also be done at least once a week. Composting waste instead of hauling it away saves money for the farm while removing pathogens and reducing vectors.


Waste Management Key Points

  • Provide separate equipment for feeding horses and removing waste.
  • Store waste as far from horse housing as possible.
  • Remove waste from the property weekly, but do not spread it on fields currently being used by horses.
  • Consider composting waste instead of having it hauled away.


Keep a log of visitors that come to the farm. Have them provide contact information so you can trace backwards if there is any sign of outbreak. Provide soap and a sink and/or hand sanitizer for visitors to use before they come onto the farm or between horses.  Post a written policy for visitors in a very visible place, so they know the biosecurity protocols of the farm.

Even though veterinarians, farriers, feed deliverers and other professionals in the industry may claim to be practicing good biosecurity, they still must follow your farm’s protocols. Ask them to wash their hands, clean their tires, and follow other biosecurity measures that your farm has in place.

Dogs can be mechanical vectors of disease, bringing pathogens from one horse to another just by moving around the barn. Therefore, keep dogs on leashes and do not allow them to interact with horses.

Similarly, children can also spread pathogens from horse to horse if they are not instructed on proper biosecurity procedures. Everyone, including kids, must wash their hands or at least use hand sanitizer between each horse they touch. Also, closely monitor them to ensure they are following other barn biosecurity rules.


Visitors Focus Points

  • Keep a log of visitors to the farm, including contact information.
  • Require handwashing before visitors can enter the property.
  • Have all equine professionals (veterinarians, farriers, feed deliverers, etc.) follow the same biosecurity protocols as all other visitors.
  • Dogs should be kept on leashes.
  • Instruct children on proper equine biosecurity protocols.

Vector Controls

Many insect (vector) breeding and harboring areas can be removed with a few management techniques. Eliminate standing water; fill potholes with dirt or gravel, change water buckets and troughs frequently, and locate barns and paddocks away from ponds, streams, creeks, etc. Gravel can be used around large water troughs to prevent mud from forming.

Fly screens or mesh on windows and doorways can keep flies out of barns, which is especially important in the quarantine area. Traps, baits, and biological methods can be used, as well.

At least once per day, clean stalls and runs. In shared spaces, empty buckets of waste every day or more frequently, as necessary. Store waste as far from the horses as possible, and remove it from the premises regularly and frequently.

Air circulation can help to reduce vectors in the barn. Having fans in stalls that blow downward on horses can help keep some flies from landing on them.

Controlling wildlife and vermin, which can be vectors for various diseases, is very important for an equine facility. Clean up any feed spills immediately. Removing brush and wildlife habitats, as well as creating a rodent control program, will help reduce the presence of wildlife vectors.


Vector Control Key Points

  • Eliminate all standing water by filling holes, replacing water, and avoiding housing horses near streams or ponds.
  • Clean stalls and runs at least once each day. Remove waste from the barn and store it as far from the horses as possible.
  • Air circulation can help keep flies from the barn.
  • Create a rodent and vermin control program to keep wildlife from the barn.

Training Barn Employees

When it comes to biosecurity, compliance can be a challenge. Make it clear to new employees that poor biosecurity practices will not be tolerated. Their training should be thorough. Explain the biosecurity recommendations as you are showing them the daily routine; this will make it clear that these practices should be followed on a daily basis. It is helpful to explain why these rules are in place–this often helps people understand and follow through more consistently. Supervise new employees while they are learning these practices.

Horse people are often very set in their ways, making it intimidating to correct them on improper handling or biosecurity techniques. From the start, your employees should expect constructive critiques throughout their tenure on your farm. Biosecurity must be valued by everyone at your farm.

Training Barn Employees Key Points

  • Train employees in good biosecurity practices.
  • Everyone at your farm, especially employees, should value biosecurity.