Equine quarantine, a must-do for horse owners

The other day my friends and I were talking about our rescue foals and of course the subject of quarantine came up. A few of us decided to rescue some babies from slaughter a couple of months ago and we often compare notes since they are all of similar age. We all believe wholeheartedly in quarantining new horses, but for how long and to what extent were different for each of us, which I found interesting.

As experienced horse women, how could we possibly have a difference of opinion about something as important as quarantine?

One of my friends said, “It’s like not sending sick children to school. If they are all boogery, you just don’t send them!”

I replied with: ”Oh no, it’s more serious than that. I quarantine any new horse regardless of where they came from or lack of symptoms. Even though I vaccinate my own horses, vaccination is no guarantee they won’t get sick. Besides, not all equine illnesses present obvious symptoms right away or all the time.”

A couple of my friends thought two weeks is enough time in quarantine and the other agreed with my 30-day minimum rule. With all of the illnesses that can affect our horses, even some that are deadly, I just don’t believe in taking that chance. Strangles, Equine Herpes Virus, Dryland Distemper and so many other threats to the health of my horses are of concern any time a new horse enters my property. (We’ll cover illnesses in the future.)

I even quarantine horses I acquire and am familiar with. I have no idea what they may have been exposed to so I keep them separated for at least a month. Thirty days is my minimum quarantine time, not negotiable. The horses may feel a bit lonely for that month in a corral all by themselves on the back 40, but it’s not forever and they all live through it.

As our discussion continued we realized that quarantine doesn’t merely mean keeping a new horse separated from the others for a period of time. Quarantine should include disinfection as well.

We all agreed that we would, and do, disinfect our trailers if we’ve hauled horses that may be sick, but if we trailer out with friends or acquaintances how would we know if they sanitize? Are we putting our horses at risk by traveling with friends? I have never asked anyone else about their sanitation habits, although I rarely travel with Cricket in someone else’s trailer. The few times I have put Cricket into a different trailer, it’s been with someone I know very well.

That got me to thinking about so many other ways that my horses could become ill. Maybe things I’d never before considered. Such as, the used corral panels we all feel so fortunate to come across. How many of us disinfect those before we take them home and clamp them together for our own horses? We have no way of knowing where the used panels have been.

Used feeders, waterers, troughs, stall mats and all the other items we always need more of, and that are so hard to come by at an affordable price, could pose a threat as well. Do you get out the disinfectant before you load them up on your trailer or even before you use them? Yes, you most likely rinse out and possibly even scrub the water or feed buckets, but germs can survive the hose and scrub brush.

Our conversation then turned from travel and used items to camping and placing our beloved horses in public corrals, which we do quite often. It has crossed my mind more than once that this could be a dangerous practice. I have no idea what horses were in those corrals prior to our visit and I have no way of knowing if any of them were ill in any way.

What really woke me up to this threat was having someone at camp recently with a horse that ended up being ill. Not purposely; he was symptom free until the third day of camp, but how was I to know what other illnesses could have been fermenting and germinating in the soil that my horse was standing on and would be eating off of at dinner time?

I started to feel a little paranoid. I love my horse, she is my partner. Shortness of breath overcame me just briefly. OK, time for a reality check….. There is no putting our horses in a plastic bubble.

My friends and I decided that we would not become overprotective and keep our horses home all the time. We can keep them safer fairly easily. There are many horse-safe disinfectants out there, just search online. They are easy to find and worth every penny. In an effort to be more cost conscious, one of my pals uses a bleach solution in a sprayer. A 10 to 1 ratio is often recommended. It’s convenient and affordable to take with her.

We did all agree that good quarantine practices are not negotiable and should include disinfecting whenever possible.

Protecting our beloved equines is something that we always need to think about. I was glad the subject came up and we gals got one another thinking out of our “box” — or corral, as it were.

   
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