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Facilities and Disease Control

Disease control is a major concern of equine facilities with multiple horses constantly traveling in and out.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Markel


I've recently began renting out my barn to boarders and my facility is seeing more horses than it ever has before. What kind of steps do I need to take with my horses, or even require of new horses coming in, to ensure the safety and health of all the horses staying in my barn?


One of the major concerns of equine facilities is disease control. An outbreak can wreak havoc on your horse population and your reputation. It is wise to do a risk assessment and have a protocol in place at your facility. You can be held legally liable for failing to provide reasonable care to horses in your custody and control. Ensuring horses are properly inoculated when they arrive should be part of your process. Consider the following when developing your protocol:

1. Are the horses in your facility constantly leaving the property for shows or events? If so, they are at an increased risk of exposure to disease.

2. Have there been disease outbreaks in your area? Be aware of what is happening in your area and what you can do to avoid a potential spread of the disease.

3. Take into account the type of horses you keep, the population density and your ability to isolate or quarantine as needed.

4. If your horses are attending shows/events, what types of controls or regulations are in place at that event to address disease control? Should you suffer a disease outbreak, it is incumbent upon you to address the problem and follow your veterinarian’s recommendations with regard to isolation/quarantine. You should also consult your insurance agent about the need to have care, custody and control coverage.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) establishes guidelines for vaccinations and offers suggestions for disease control. Visit their website for an in depth discussion of these topics and more.

The AAEP suggests the following core vaccinations, defined as “Those that protect from diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, required by law, virulent/highly infectious and/or those posing a risk of severe disease.

1. Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis

2. Rabies

3. Tetanus

4. West Nile Virus

The AAEP also offers a list of risk-based vaccinations, whose use will “vary regionally, from population to population within an area or between individual horses within a given population.” It is suggested you consult with your veterinarian to do a risk-based analysis to determine if any would be beneficial to your operation,

1. Anthrax

2. Botulism

3. Equine Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis)

4. Equine Influenza

5. Equine Viral Arteritis

6. Leptospirosis

7. Potomac Horse Fever

8. Rotaviral Diarrhea

9. Strangles

As a facility owner, it is important for you to obtain vaccination/health records for any incoming horse and for those you are currently boarding. Vaccinations should be done before a horse enters your facility so they may develop an adequate immune response before arrival. If the horse’s records are not available, it is wise to consider keeping that horse separated from the existing population for a few weeks, until the possible danger has passed. Keep in mind that diseases may be spread in several ways—by direct contact with other horses, contact through people, through equipment and even can be airborne.

Consult your veterinarian with regard to your needs and ask him/her to assist you with developing the best protocol for your facility.