Biosecurity Considerations for Travel
Travelling with horses presents several risks associated with the spread of disease; to maintain the health of you horse and prevent potential outbreaks, keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Horses should be healthy before leaving the property. Do not travel with a horse that is already showing clinical signs of illness. Travel further stresses a horse’s system, can result in more severe illness, and moving sick or exposed horses can spread disease to others. To maintain your horse’s health keep them on a vaccination plan, a deworming schedule, a diet appropriate for your horse’s workload, and an adequate exercise program.
- Your horse’s mode of transportation can pose a risk. Trailers make excellent fomites (a fomite is an object or material likely to harbour infection). Clean your trailer between every trip, limit your horse’s ability to touch other horses in the trailer, and disinfect all surfaces regularly.
- Different regions pose different risks of infection. If you are travelling long distance, your destination may pose a risk to your horse’s health. Risk Based Vaccines are administered to horses in regions where a disease is considered endemic. Some vaccines are given multiple times over the course of a year in regions where insect vectors are active year-round.
- Consider your destination. Are you travelling to a facility for an event and, if so, does that facility have biosecurity in mind? Are you travelling to a trail ride, or outdoor event where contact with other horses and/or shared water sources might pose a risk?
- Keep separate equipment for your horse/trailer. Keep your own pitchforks, muck buckets, hoses, water buckets, feed pans/buckets, grooming supplies, and tack separate from others. Do not share equipment between horses and clean and disinfect your equipment regularly.
Resources for Owners
Keeping Horses Healthy and Sound During Transport (podcast), The Horse (timestamps 1:30 to 8:15, 20:00 to 20:58)
Biosecurity for Equine Transporters
- Ensure the health of every horse you transport.
- Require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) or health certificate as well as a negative Coggins test for every horse from every client. Keep up-to-date on state requirements for entry and check for outbreaks at or near the destination before transporting. Never ship horses to or from a quarantined facility without the supervision of an attending veterinarian.
- Check temperatures and observe for clinical signs of illness before traveling- Horses should be monitored for signs of illness before traveling. Horses with a temperature of 102°F (38.8° C) or obvious clinical signs should not be transported unless under the approval of a veterinarian.
- If you must ship a horse to or from veterinary facilities, always do so under the guidance of the attending veterinarian.
- Clean and Disinfect- The entire vehicle between trips with a different horse or group of horses. Remove manure and soiled bedding after every trip and, if possible, during trips.
- Disinfection protocol
- Remove all organic matter- *Surfaces cannot be disinfected if organic matter is present.* Scrub surfaces with warm, soapy water to remove all traces of organic matter including dirt, feces, saliva and mucous.
- Allow surface to dry before applying a disinfectant.
- Disinfect- After scrubbing the surface, use an approved disinfectant such as bleach (recommended at a strength of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water), accelerated hydrogen peroxide or a phenolic. Be sure to follow label directions for use including precautions that workers should be taking in applying the product used.
- Allow surface to dry before using the vehicle.
- Remember to disinfect crossties and under floor mats as well- floor mats should be pulled up, scrubbed, and sprayed with a disinfectant, as should the floor beneath them. Crossties should be cleaned of organic matter and disinfected.
- Disinfection protocol
- Limit stress- Stress can have a negative impact on the equine immune system making horses more prone to illness. Limiting stress as much as possible is the best way to keep horses healthy. “Stress occurs when a horse is required to make abnormal or extreme adjustments in its behavior or internal management (physiology) in order to cope with adverse aspects of its environment and management.” (UC Davis)
- Limit duration- Time spent on the trailer should never exceed 12 hours. Horses should be unloaded and placed in a well-ventilated stall or paddock for 8 hours during long periods of travel to allow for rehydration and to clear the lungs.
- Maintain hydration- Offer clean water every 3 to 6 hours during prolonged ground or air transportation. Do not share water buckets between horses unless they are cleaned and disinfected between uses.
- Allow horses to drop their heads, if possible- Horses should be allowed to drop their heads and stretch out their necks if it is safe to do so. Restricting head posture inhibits the horse’s ability to clear the trachea and lungs and can lead to shipping fever (pneumonia).
- Allow horses to choose their orientation, if possible- Many horses will choose to travel facing opposite the direction of travel.
- Ensure adequate ventilation to improve air quality.
- Monitor horses for signs of injury, illness, and/or stress- Horses showing signs of injury, illness, or stress should be removed from the vehicle and assessed by a veterinarian before continuing their journey. If you find youself in need of a vet near-by, the American Association of Equine Practioners can help you locate a local practitioner.
- Don’t share equipment between horses. Do not allow multiple horses to drink from the same bucket. Use equipment such as halters and lead ropes that are dedicated to that specific horse.
- Keep yourself clean- Humans are a common fomite. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often. If transporting a sick horse, change clothes and disinfect boots before handling other animals.
Resources for transporters
Resources Regarding Disinfection