With spring finally here, you may be thinking about buying a new horse or bringing new horses in to your training or boarding program. Do you have a quarantine program in place? If not, be sure to review these tips on quarantining a new horse to help keep your other horses both safe and healthy.
Why You Need to Quarantine a Horse
Quarantining a new horse should be a standard practice in any barn. When you bring in a new horse, whether it’s coming from an elite stable or from an auction house, you never know with 100% certainty whether the horse is sick or not. Even if the horse has been fully vaccinated, it may have been to a recent show where it was exposed to a contagious disease.
If you don’t quarantine a horse and it has a disease, such as Strangles, you may find yourself in a situation where you’re trying to keep it from spreading through your entire stable. You may have to quarantine your entire farm, which can mean missed competition opportunities, lost income from new clients and lessons, and many vet bills for sick horses.
Quarantining a new horse (ideally for 30 days, but for 2 weeks at a minimum) can help to prevent this situation. Here’s what you need to set up a quality quarantine program.
The success of a quarantine partially depends on where you locate your quarantined horse. If you have a business where you’ll frequently be bringing in new horses, then it may be worth it to build a separate small quarantine barn to keep the new horses distanced from your existing horses.
In a pinch, locating a quarantined horse in a stall that’s at the opposite end of your barn from your current horses can work, though it’s not ideal.
You’ll also want to think about how you’ll handle the new horse’s turnout. You should have a separate paddock for the horse that is downwind of your existing paddocks. There should be as much distance between the paddocks as possible – ideally situate them on opposite sides of your barn.
Caring for a Quarantined Horse
When it comes to caring for a quarantined horse, it’s best to have one designated person who cares for that horse and that horse alone. If you must care for both the quarantined horse and your other horses, then always care for the quarantined horse last, then immediately leave the barn and change your clothes.
You will need to have designated tools to be used just for the quarantined horse. This includes a wheelbarrow, pitchfork, buckets, and feed tubs. Mark all of these tools with bright fluorescent tape, and don’t store them with your other tools to help avoid accidental misuse.
If you’re dealing with a horse that is actually sick, you’ll need to implement some additional precautions, such as disinfecting the stall and tools, and even changing your clothes and boots before entering the general space of the rest of your barn.
Monitoring a Quarantined Horse
You’ll want to carefully monitor the new horse so that if he does get sick, you’re aware of it as soon as possible. Taking his temperature on a daily basis can give you a heads-up if he does start to get sick. You should also monitor him for other signs of illness, like coughing, a runny nose, or loss of appetite.
If the horse does become sick, consult with your veterinarian for the best treatment plan. Your vet can also advise you about additional measures to prevent the spread of the illness, based on your specific barn setup and situation.
Hopefully your quarantine will be uneventful and you’ll be able to transition the horse into your general barn population as soon as the quarantine period is up.