Biosecurity During COVID-19 for Horse Owners

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The horse industry – in all fashions – has taken a hit because of COVID-19. Many horse shows have been canceled and trail locations closed, and boarding facilities under stricter regulations have horse owners “biting at the bit” (pun intended) to get back in the saddle. However, horse owners should take precautions to protect themselves and their horses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been no report of horses being infected with the SARS-coV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. However, biosecurity measures should be in place to prevent the spread of other potential equine diseases. Below are some tips for practicing biosecurity during a pandemic at horse shows, trail riding locations, barns, etc.

  • Horses should not be co-mingled. One carrier animal can potentially infect not only the other horses at an event, but those pathogens can be taken home and shared with the rest of the horses at the home farm if precautions are not taken.
  • Be sure the trailer used to haul the horses is clean as well as the equipment and tack.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about any concerns of horse health – make sure vaccinations are up to date, discuss any disease concerns in the area(s) to be traveled through, and any other health concerns.
  • Don’t share tack, grooming supplies, feed pans, or water buckets. Most equine diseases are spread by direct contact. Direct contact not only includes nose-to-nose contact but contact with surfaces that may have gotten saliva, respiratory secretions, or manure contamination from an infected horse.
  • Keep the area around your horses clean. Fully clean and disinfect any stalls to be used before putting your horses in. Do this even if the event host has already promised that the stalls were cleaned and disinfected.
  • Keep an eye on your horses for any sign of illness. Check for fever and keep track of feed and water intake while away from home.
  • When returning from an equine event, isolate the horse that has traveled for at least a week. Monitor for any symptoms like fever, off-feed, etc. If symptoms are seen, veterinary care can be given.
  • Clean and disinfect the trailer, tack, and equipment when returning from events.
  • Keep your horse’s stress level as low as possible. Stress can cause the horse’s immune system to become compromised. Continue a familiar feeding regimen to keep your horse on schedule to avoid stress and colic. If your horse is not used to being in a stall and gets stressed when they are in one, taking them out frequently and hand-walking them can help decrease their stress level.

If you have questions concerning any of the information above, please contact Taylor Chavis, Extension Livestock Agent, at 910-671-3276, by email at Taylor_Chavis@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.