The simple biosecurity measures below are relevant to everyone who owns or works with horses or donkeys – whether they are kept as a hobby or as a business.
Visitors on your property
Only allow visitors contact with your horses if necessary. Keep visitors out of stable areas and paddocks if they don't need to be there. Don’t allow unnecessary traffic from vehicles on your property, they can park outside or in a designated parking area (which doesn’t share common ground with regular horse traffic) and if it is a large property use your own vehicles to show them around. If your visitors are working regularly with outside horses and you allow them to have close contact with your horses, make them aware that you require them to have clean clothes and footwear on. Even the simple act of washing your hands regularly can make a large difference to a disease or condition being spread. Ensure vets, farriers and others providing equine services use clean equipment on your animals.
Avoid bringing problems homeMost diseases are introduced to a horse property with the arrival of a new horse that is already infected or is a carrier of a disease, or through a horse coming into contact with a diseased horse – for example, while attending an event.
Handling new arrivals
A pre-purchase examination by a veterinarian is always helpful. Depending on where the horse has come from, screening tests for specific diseases may also be advisable. Consult your veterinarian for advice. Isolate new arrivals from resident horses for at least two weeks, and check them daily for any signs of ill health. While in isolation, horses should be given an effective worm paste.
Visiting horse properties
People can introduce diseases if they handle an infected horse and then handle another horse soon afterwards. If you have been in contact with other horses, you need to thoroughly wash your hands before handling your own horses; also consider changing your clothes. Don't share your horse’s or donkey’s equipment with neighbours or other people, unless you make sure it's thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before coming back into contact with your horse or donkey. This includes headstalls, bits, rugs, saddlecloths, feed and water bins.
Prevent disease spread
The sooner a problem is detected, the easier it is to deal with. Horses should be checked daily to ensure that they are healthy and injury-free. Insect control is important, particularly in stables. Ensure good drainage and manure disposal and management to prevent insects such as mosquitos and march flies from breeding.
Stables, equipment and transport vehicles should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Wipes, rags or towels, for example, can easily transfer infections from horse to horse, and need thorough washing after use. Disinfection and cleaning is particularly important for foaling boxes. A horse that is showing signs of sickness should be isolated. Ideally, people handling a sick horse should not handle other horses. If this is not possible, make sure you handle the sick horse last, then wash your hands thoroughly and change your clothes before going near any other horses. Any gear, such as rugs, halters, lead ropes, feed bins, and grooming brushes, should also be kept separate, used only for the sick horse, and then disinfected before being used on other horses.
Studs and large operations
Properties with a large number of horses segregate their horses by age and use, for example, keeping yearlings separate from older horses. You should always wash your hands between handling groups of horses. Pregnant mares require special care. They are best separated from other horses, particularly new arrivals, and in large enterprises should be kept in small groups based on foaling date. This will ensure that if abortion is due to an infectious agent such as equine herpes virus, the spread to other pregnant mares will be limited. Any such abortion should always be investigated as soon as possible by a veterinarian.
Nose-to-nose contact between your horses and those on a neighbouring property may allow an infectious disease to spread. This risk can be managed by keeping horses away from the boundary or using double fencing. A line of trees between the fences is ideal both as windbreak and to improve biosecurity.
Some diseases can be prevented, or their effect minimized, by vaccination. All horses should be vaccinated against tetanus. Strangles and equine herpes virus (EHV 4) vaccines are recommended for certain situations. Consult your veterinarian for advice. When vaccinating against tetanus, strangles and equine herpes virus, give the full vaccination course and regular boosters as recommended. Always use a new needle and syringe when giving any injection.
Prevent disease from other species
Hendra virus is a rare but often fatal disease of horses which can be spread to humans where it is often fatal. Hendra virus occurs as a ‘spill over’ infection from the virus’s normal wildlife host, the flying fox (fruit bat). Contact between horses and flying foxes should be avoided. Avoid placing horses in a paddock that contains trees attractive to bats for either feeding or roosting. Horse feed bins or watering points should not be placed under trees when there is a risk of bats inhabiting the tree. If possible, place feed and water containers under cover.
Investigating and reporting disease
Consultation with a veterinarian is recommended when any sick horse is identified.
If you notice a high number of sick horses, or any horse with unusual signs, or a horse dies with no obvious cause, immediately call your veterinarian, Qld DPI&F Veterinarian, or the Emergency Disease Watch Hotline or 1800 675 888. If you think your horse has Hendra virus, you should have minimal contact with the horse until Hendra virus has been eliminated as part of the diagnosis.
Accredited Tick Control Personnel
Application by Organisation for Tick Control Acceditation
Application for Travel Permit for Competition Stock
Application Multi Movement Travel Permit
Biosecurity – Event Organiser
Biosecurity - Going to an Event
Biosecurity on your Property
Guide to Waybill Completion
Hendra Property Design
Hendra Virus Disposal
Horse Health Declaration
Horse Safe AHIC
Horse Safety Australia Explained
Horse Safety Aust Registration Form
Horse Venue Biosecurity Workbook
QHC Temperature Chart
QHC Visitor Register
Qld Cattle Tick Zones
Risk Management Plan Event Organiser
Transport Coe of Practice CSIRO