When should I isolate my horse from the rest of the horses at the barn?
Before we tackle this, it’s important to remember why you need to isolate horses at the barn - to prevent contagious diseases from spreading. Nose to nose contact, shared grooming tools, shared turnouts and pastures, wheelbarrows and manure rakes, and even the wind can transmit disease from horse to horse. The key to successful isolation is catching diseases and conditions early - often times before your horse shows any outward signs of being ill.
How do you catch things early? The easiest way is to take TPR (temperatures, pulse, respirations) every single day. When horses travel for shows, breeding, new barns, increase your TPR checking to twice a day or more. This goes for the “new” horse, the horse just back from a trip, and every horse in the barn - regardless of their lifestyle.
This smaller barn has an isolation stall away from the main barn. Great for snotty noses, fevers, and new horses.
You need to isolate a horse when the horse has:
- A fever
- Runny nose or abnormal nasal discharge
- Returned from a show
- Returned from a hospital or breeding facility
- Arrived from a different barn
This little barn makes for a great isolation stall for a sick horse.
As a general rule of thumb, new horses coming into a barn should be isolated for two to four weeks. Your Veterinarian should be able to view the new horse’s Veterinary records and make a specific recommendation for you based on vaccination history, point of origin, etc.
When returning from a horse show, hospital, or breeding facility, it is advised to isolate all horses for two to four weeks. This is particularly difficult when some horses show most of the year. Again, your Veterinarian should be able to help your determine an appropriate length of time.
Horses with fevers and horses with diarrhea present a large risk to the rest of the horses on the property. You must isolate them as best you can and even consider transport to an equine hospital with isolation facilities. Of course, you shall be burning up all of your cell phone battery talking with your Veterinarian about the best course of action.
If you are isolating a horse at home, you can learn more about proper isolation procedures here. A few reminders just in case:
- Handle the sick horse last.
- Have a designated set of tools (hose, buckets, wheelbarrow, rake, brushes) for the isolated horse and the isolated horse ONLY.
- Change your clothes after being around the isolated horse. (A reason to shop? Perhaps!)
- Wear gloves.
- Make foot baths daily for use outside of the isolation area.
- Practice good rodent, barn dog, barn cat, insect control - these critters can spread disease, too.
- Consult with your Veterinarian about isolation procedures.
- At least twice daily TPR for all horses in the vicinity - this may include neighboring barns!
Better safe than sorry, and hopefully no one ever has to deal with a case of strangles or EHV-1 at their barn.