What do I need to know about biosecurity at horse shows? And home for that matter? And really what is biosecurity?
So the official definition of biosecurity is stopping contagious diseases. Think of it as invisible bubble wrap around your horse so he doesn’t get sick - or make anyone other horses sick.
Well - if you are anything like me, your social media is filled with horse stories and news. More often than not, there’s an outbreak of vesticular stomatis, EHV-1, or some other disease that is making it’s rounds through barns. Sometimes the disease du jour is not life threatening, sometimes it is. Just think of the damage that could be done if all 500 horses at a show carried a virus or bacteria back to their home barns.
Most horse shows allow spectators to mingle down the barn aisles.
So here’s what I notice at every single horse show I have ever worked, attended, or spectated. The humans greatly facilitate the spreading of germs and viruses around the barns. I was at a show last week where I was chatting to a spectator in the barn, and she mentioned that she was just in another barn petting some of those horses, and as we chatted she proceeded to start petting the horses around me. (Of course I politely stopped her.) Who needs air to carry a virus when it has human hands?
When it comes to biosecurity at barns, a few simple guidelines can help all horses stay healthy.
-Make sure your horse is healthy, up to date on vaccinations, and fit for travel and competition. This starts at home, long before the show.
-Clean and disinfect the stall(s) your horse will use at the show. Leftover manure, shavings, and dirty walls are potential hazards. Remove all remains of bedding, and then let soap and water work on the walls. For added measure you can rinse with a 1:15 ratio of bleach to water.
-Take responsibility for your horse - be his advocate. It’s perfectly fine to ask someone not to touch your horse. Respect your fellow competitors and owners as well by not smooching or scratching their horses.
-Monitor your horse’s temperature. Most horses will appear totes normal with a fever long before the fever makes them appear ill. Twice daily at shows is a good idea, and continue the twice daily for a bit after a show and travel.
-Don’t share. I know this is contrary to every Sesame Street episode, but diseases are contagious! If you have extra things in your trailer that you could lend out without needing it back, you may be OK. But pass on sharing brushes (some skin infections are contagious via brushes). Hoses that are shared among horses can also be a source of infection, so bring your own.
-If your horse is the most social creature on the planet, it’s going to be a rude awakening when you explain to him that nose to nose contact is off the menu. It’s fine to get him a stuffed animal instead.
-Situate your horse so he can still see other horses, but maybe at a distance. Tack stalls are great to put between horses.
-If you are at concerned about biosecurity at a show, talk to your Veterinarian and the Show Management.
How diligent are you about biosecurity at horse shows?