Equine biosecurity

Equine biosecurity: what you need to know

By Wendy Talbot on 05 March 2019

Equine biosecurity: what you need to know

The recent outbreak of equine flu in the UK this winter is a stark reminder of the importance of good equine biosecurity to minimise the risk of your horse picking up an infection or disease.

Equine biosecurity may sound complicated but in fact it is simply a set of management practices to help keep horses safe from disease. Putting an equine biosecurity plan into place really isn’t as challenging as it may sound.

It’s always best to apply equine biosecurity measures every day: waiting until an outbreak of any infectious disease occurs is usually too late so it's far better to make equine biosecurity a part of your daily routine – it will soon become a habit and your horse will be much safer from disease as a result.

Flu facts

Equine flu is very contagious and the virus can be spread in the air over large distances. It can also be transmitted via hands, clothing and equipment. An infected horse will spread the virus when coughing and can be contagious for up to 10 days.

  • Lethargy/reduced performance
  • Reduced appetite
  • Coughing
  • High temperature
  • Nasal discharge

Follow these 10 biosecurity tips to reduce the risk of flu for your horse

  • Know your horse: recognising what is normal for your horse in terms of behaviour and vital signs will help you quickly spot when anything may be amiss in terms of health. Find out more about vital signs here.
  • Keep vaccinations up to date: annual vaccinations against flu are recommended but in the current circumstances your vet may recommend an earlier booster. Unvaccinated horses have the greatest risk of developing more severe signs of flu and a longer recovery period. If at least 70% of horses are vaccinated it will help to reduce the spread of disease within a population – this is called herd immunity.
  • Wash your hands after handling an unknown horse before your own and ask others to wash their hands before touching your horse.
  • Don’t allow any of your horse’s equipment to be shared with other horses. This includes buckets, brushes and tack. Don’t borrow any equipment either unless it has been thoroughly cleaned first.
  • Don’t let your horse make any physical contact with or get too close to any new arrivals on the yard or any other unknown horses when you are out and about.
  • Prevent your horse from using communal water sources anywhere.
  • Always scrub and disinfect a new stable, whether at your current yard, a new yard or at a competition venue. Always use clean fresh bedding and be sure to disinfect your trailer and all your kit on your return.
  • Isolate all new arrivals onto the yard, ideally for three weeks, before introducing them to resident horses and make sure any new horses are vaccinated against flu. Isolation facilities should ideally be a minimum of 25m from other horses, with no shared airspace.
  • Isolate horses immediately if they are showing any signs of sickness.
  • Discuss your equine biosecurity plan with your vet to be sure you have every angle covered and contact your vet immediately if you are concerned about your horse’s health.









Wendy graduated from Bristol University in 1999. She then went on to complete a residency at Liverpool University and holds a European Diploma in Equine Internal Medicine. After working in practice for 13 years, she joined Zoetis in 2012 as the National Equine Veterinary Manager.

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