The Importance of Biosecurity

When was the last time you dealt with a virus outbreak? For me, it was just last month.

I got the dreaded text message around 6 p.m. from one of the barn owners informing me that my 2-year-old filly had started to cough, was developing a runny nose, and had a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. 

I thought back to earlier in the day when I was around her. She had coughed once, but I had just taken her to the outdoor arena where we both inhaled some dust, so I didn’t think much of it—we all cough occasionally. She was happy, alert, and even full of energy when I stuck her on a longe line to stretch her legs. 

biosecurity
After several weeks off to recover from being sick, we’re slowly getting back to work. Photo by Nichole Chirico

My barn owners were on top of it and immediately gave Keira some Banamine while I made my way to the barn to see what was happening. 

When I arrived, she was coughing, and had the snotty nose that all horse owners dread seeing. I called the vet and told him what was going on. He suggested we continue to monitor it and follow up in the morning.  

Read More: Keep Your Horse Safe from Infection With Biosecurity Measures

Stop the Spread

When a horse starts to develop symptoms of an infectious disease, you need to act fast to avoid exposing other horses. The barn did just that. The owners sent out an email letting everyone know what the protocol would be going forward, and set up a few sanitizing stations that included gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, and diluted bleach. Any horse that showed symptoms was immediately quarantined. Because my barn was quick to spring into action and has fantastic biosecurity measures put into place, we were able to stop the spread almost immediately.

Any time I went into my horse’s stall, I made sure to disinfect myself from head to toe, and always used a fresh set of gloves and a thermometer cover when it came time to take her temperature. I also made sure to take note of any symptoms or changes in health. Had my horse’s cough worsened? Was her snotty nose getting better? Was she staying hydrated? Catching any changes of health early on can be the difference between a severely sick horse and a mildly sick horse. 

Thankfully it turned out to be a mild cold, and by day three my filly was on the mend. I started to create a list of things I needed to do to get rid of any lingering germs. Her blankets and stall bag went directly into the washing machine, and I sanitized her water and feed buckets. Brushes, protective legwear, her girth, and her saddle pad all got sanitized, too. The next step was disinfecting her stall and any other surfaces she might have touched. By the end of the week, the smell of disinfectant spray was lingering in the barn aisle, in my car, and on my clothes.

Read More: EHV-1 Horse Health Guide

In This Issue

We’re never going to eliminate the threat of disease completely, but having biosecurity measures in place, and a consistent vaccination program, can help you avoid having a whole barn come down with an infectious disease. And with the current outbreak of EHV-1 happening in California, now is the perfect time to reevaluate your current protective measures so you’re prepared. In this issue’s Health department (page 20) we go into detail on what EHV-1 is and how it’s transmitted, and go over ways to prevent the spread if your horse does test positive.  

If you’re like me, then budgeting is an important part of horse ownership. Between the vet bills, farrier bills, feed bills, and training bills, it’s important to have a plan put into place to help with the costs. In “Smart Money Moves” we talk with Carrie King, a financial advisor and fellow horse owner who goes over three different types of riders, differentiating by level of commitment and investment. She suggests smart money moves you can make to support your horse life.  

Plus, we help you get ready for show season by offering training tips from some of the industry’s top Western professionals. In “On Pattern, On Target,” you’ll learn the importance of pattern placement in events like reining, ranch riding, and horsemanship, and learn how you can improve your score in the show pen.

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