Disease Prevention on Your Yard

2 April 2023

With yards of all sizes, infectious disease is always a risk. Many yard owners believe that with small yards and non-competitive riders their risk is small, but this is simply not the case. If you have riders who visit other yards to use their facilities, liveries who meet friends for hacks or travel for group rides, have friends or family visit, have sharers, loaners or even equine professionals who visit the yard… these are all increasing the risk of the biosecurity on your yard.

Below we look at the simple and effective ways that you can help reduce the Risk of Disease on Your Yard

Why takes these steps?

As an equestrian professional, or a horse owner on a Livery Yard, you have a responsibility not only to your own equines, but also to any others in your contact or charge, to take the necessary steps to reduce the risk any outbreak of any illness or infectious disease. In the event of an outbreak, it is important to have procedures in place to isolate any cases, and facilitate running the yard without risk of further contamination at your yard, or others.

Those in the equestrian sector open themselves to the risk of outbreak of equine infectious diseases in many scenarios which may not have even been considered-

  • Taking on New Liveries
  • Meeting Friends from other Livery Yards
  • Attending Events (such as shows, lessons or riding club events)
  • The hire of yard facilities to third parties or use of yard as an event venue
  • Sharing tack, grooming equipment or tools
  • Purchase of Second-Hand items such as tack or rugs

Dealing with Day to Day Prevention

  • Check the Horse Over You should check your horse every day for signs of disease or illness. Basic signs would give an indication that a horse is unwell- stiffness, coughs, unusual stance, rise in temperature, nasal discharge, loose stools and loss of appetite are all common signs that all is not well.
  • Keep the Yard and Your Equipment Clean Emptying wheelbarrows, sweeping up, poo picking, cleaning tools and equipment (such as feed bowls) are simple but effective ways to prevent outbreaks of illness and should be incorporated as daily or weekly routine tasks on the yard.
  • Maintaining Smaller Herds There is the potential to minimise and isolate any outbreaks but having smaller herd groups that graze and are stabled together in separate blocks. This way, if an equine in one herd is affected by an illness or infectious disease, it would be easier to isolate within that smaller group of equines than, for example, a yard where all horses graze together.
  • Attending Events If attending an event, there will be lots of unknown equines whose veterinary history is unknown to you. Be wary of horse to horse contact with unknown equines, shared transport and stabling.
  • Equines on Your Yard There may be occasions third party users bring equines onto your yard. They could be known horses and riders to you, or could be complete strangers. It is important to draw a line between their use of facilities, and their contact with horses on your yard.
  • Your Yard as a Competition Venue Your yard may be a venue for riding club events, shows or training and it is important to define the areas that can be accessed by visitors to the yard at these times. It is ideal not to allow any visiting equines or people directly onto the yard to prevent any potential contamination and is advisable to put up signs and barriers to clearly mark areas permitted to be accessed by visitors and their equines.
  • Sharing Tools, Tack, Equipment and Second Hand Items You should be cautious about sharing items that will come in close contact with your horse (such as saddle cloths, bits, tack, grooming equipment), and should use your own where possible. If you purchase second hand items for your horse, all second hand equipment should be thoroughly washed or cleaned as best as possible before use.
  • Treat new Liveries Accordingly Any new equines to your yard should have a period of isolation before joining the main herd and yard. This is to rule out any potential diseases, and for the horse to be observed for any signs of disease or illness it may display before coming into contact with your other equines.
  • Check What is Happening Locally If you hear of outbreaks locally of infectious diseases, even just a possibility, caution should be exerted and limitations put in place. It is advisable to contact a local veterinarian to discuss the risks to your yard and seek their advice as to how to manage a local outbreak. 
  • Educate Your Horse Owners and Staff Any experienced horse owner or handler should be able to recognise the initial symptoms of disease and illness in equines. It is important that horse owners, and staff if applicable, are responsible to report any unusual activity or behaviours of horses on the yard to their manager or yard owner so that the necessary steps can be taken.

New Liveries at Your Yard

  • Check the Paperwork It would be advisable to check the Equine Passport at least for up-to-date vaccinations for Equine Influenza, if not tetanus as well. Copies should be taken of the Equine Passport Ownership page, ID page, and vaccination pages and kept on file.
  • Isolation Period Any new equines should be isolated for at least 48 hours to check the horse for possible symptoms of illness. This should include a fresh, clean stable away from the main stable block, separate grazing with no access to the rest of the herd, and separate equipment for mucking out and handling.
  • Temperature Testing Temperature testing can be a great alternative for yards whose facilities do not easily permit isolation, or can be used alongside isolation to help spot early signs of fever.
  • Introduction to the Herd Introduction to the herd should be managed calmly, and the existing liveries should be advised to check their own horses for signs of illness or sickness over the course of a week following integration of a new herd member.

 Prevention Outside of the Yard

  • Be Sensible at Events When attending with equines any events external of you yard, sensible precautions should be taken as it is unlikely you know many of the other equines attending.
  • Hired Stabling and Use of Facilities Some events require overnight stabling. It is recommended to only use temporary stabling which is clean, and clear of any previous signs of the last occupant (such as bedding, poo, hay etc), and the use of your own feeding and mucking out equipment.
  • Transporting of Horses Any transport- particularly heavily shared transport such as professional transporters- should be free from poo, and provide a clean and sanitary environment for your horse to travel in. If you share your own transport with others, ensure you know the horse, or its history, well and be satisfied that you are not putting any potential illness at risk from close contact or use of your transport.
  • Visiting Other Yards or Hacking Out With Friends If you’ve got liveries that meet to ride out or train with equines from other yards, or who visit other yards in the course of business or leisure it is important to remind them of the risks of cross contamination.
  • Temperature Testing Rather than isolating horses which compete or leave the yard regularly, temperature testing can be amanagable alternative, whilst allowing the horse to continue its normal herd routine. Temperature testing can effectively alert owners to a raise in temperature, before an outbreak allowing action to be taken if readings are higher than expected.

 Managing an Outbreak at Your yard

  • Lockdown The first step should be to put the yard on lock down. No equines entering or leaving the yard for any reason- including hacking unless advised otherwise by a veterinarian, and no visitors unless absolutely necessary.
  • Let Other Yards Know It is important, to prevent further local outbreaks, to advise other local equestrian venues know of your outbreak, or any potential outbreak. This will enable them to take the necessary steps to identify any horses on their yard who may have been subject to cross contamination from your yard or horses therein, and to take the necessary steps.
  • Isolation of the Infected Equine Any horse confirmed affected by any disease outbreak, or showing potential symptoms should be isolated from the rest of the yard immediately.
  • Clean handling For the duration of isolation, any infected horses should have their own tools, equipment, handler and no contact with any other people or equines on the yard. All horse owners on the yard should be prevented from contact with the horse, or entering the isolation zone. 
  • After the Outbreak Any horses which have had the disease should be returned to the main herd once the all clear is given from a qualified veterinarian. Any tools or equipment used during the period of isolation, as well as the stables and any facilities used or accessed by the horse should be fully disinfected.
  • Keep a Record It is important to keep a record of any outbreaks and relevant details for your own files.
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