Equine Biosecurity

Biosecurity is a set of management principles, actions, precautions and procedures that protect the health of animals by minimizing the transmission of potentially infectious disease onto or off of equine premises.

Horses can be exposed to diseases through common sources of infectious agents, including:
  • other horses
  • people transferring disease on clothing, hands or shoes
  • feces
  • insect vectors
  • rodents, birds, other domestic animals, pets and wildlife
  • fomites (inanimate objects capable of carrying microorganisms, such as buckets, wheelbarrows, shovels, tack, etc.)
  • blood and other bodily fluids
Horses can become more susceptible to disease when they are:
  • in high density populations
  • commingled
  • stressed
  • transported
  • exposed to horses that are sick or to horses that appear healthy, but are shedding infectious microorganisms
Stress can cause increased susceptibility for disease in horses by affecting their immune system and lowering defenses against biological agents. 

Horses that participate at events away from home can experience stress associated with travel, an unfamiliar environment and competition.

Biosecurity for Horse Owners

Biosecurity measures help reduce the possibility of your horses getting a serious disease and introducing it to your property.  It also helps you control the spread of disease between healthy and sick animals on the same property.
Vaccination and General Health
Vaccination will help increase resistance to specific diseases and minimize the chances that your horses will become infected.  Discuss the particular needs of your horses with your veterinarian.

Fever (rectal temperature > 38.5°C/ 101.3 °F) is a common early warning sign of infectious disease.  Monitoring the temperature of horses is a useful tool for early disease detection.

Horses who may be more susceptible to infectious diseases are: the very young, the very old, horses under stress or horses recovering from injury or disease.

If you have sick horses or horses under quarantine on your property, restrict access to the area where they are housed. 
By establishing strict equine biosecurity practices at home and while travelling, you will help ensure safety for your own horses and the other horses with which you may come into contact.

Biosecurity for Equine Event Participants

  • Horses that are suspected of suffering from an infectious or contagious disease, or have been in contact with sick animals, MUST NOT be brought to horse events.
  • Inquire in advance about the event’s biosecurity plan and be prepared to follow them. For instance:
    • vaccination requirements
    • Equine Infectious Anemia (Coggins) testing
    • biosecurity plan
  • Remove any old bedding that might be present in assigned stall.  Clean and disinfect all surfaces your horse will have contact with.
  • Check your horse’s temperature twice daily. If your horse develops a fever or signs of illness, contact a vet and an event official immediately
  • Do not share feed or water containers or tack and equipment unless properly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Avoid nose to nose contact with horses from other locations.
  • If possible, isolate your horse for at least two weeks after returning from an event.

Biosecurity For Equine Event Planners

Event planners have a duty of care to participating horses. An outbreak of an infectious disease during or subsequent to an equine event can significantly impact the horse industry.
Potential Sources of Infectious Disease Agents
Some equine infectious disease agents are naturally occurring in the environment and may be present on the event grounds.
Infectious disease agents may be brought onsite by apparently healthy carrier animals. Stress may result in a carrier animal becoming sick while at an event, which can then shed the pathogen and expose susceptible horses.
Event Organizers Responsibilities:
  • develop a biosecurity plan
  • emphasize to event participants the need to manage their own biosecurity risks
  • only healthy horses should be allowed to enter the venue grounds, require participants to provide documents showing negative Coggins (EIA) results and proof of core vaccination
  • arrange for a vet to be available on site or on call
  • manage or minimize public access to stable areas
  • provide a sufficient number of footbaths and handwashing stations
  • spread stabling allocation as much as possible
  • designate an isolation stall to be used in case a horse is sick
  • sanitize stalls in between events
  • have a contingency plan in the event of a disease outbreak
For more information download these factsheets and brochure: 


For more information, or if you suspect any animal health related concerns, please contact the Chief Veterinary Office or call 204-945-7663 in Winnipeg.