National Farm and Facility Level Biosecurity User Guide for the Equine Sector
Annex 13: Separating sick horses

Separating sick horses requires preventing direct contact between horses (for example nose-to-nose contact, social interaction and breeding) and indirect contact with surfaces that may be contaminated (for example, tack, water buckets, hands, clothing, footwear, stall walls, and bedding). Finding sufficient space to separate horses can be difficult.


Designate a location to house and treat sick horses.

  • Select a stall in a separate building that is downwind of the location of the resident horse housing. It should be minimum distance of 25 m from other horses; the farther away the better to prevent aerosol and airborne transmission of pathogens. The building should prevent contact with other horses, be removed from the regular traffic flow on the site and have its own dedicated turn-out area.
    • When this is not feasible, consider creating a temporary stall within an outbuilding on the property or use a shed within a paddock. Temporary fencing and portable fence panels can assist with creating the necessary separation. Restrict access to these areas these areas while occupied by an sick horse. To prevent fence line nose-to-nose contact of horses, paddocks on either side of the designated area may need to be left empty.
    • While not ideal, sick horses can be managed in the regular housing by moving them to a stall at the end of the barn away from heavy traffic routes and separated from other horses by leaving the adjacent stall empty. Shared airspace and the possible cross contamination by people and equipment reduce the effectiveness of this method. Have dedicated equipment for the sick horse. Install fans near the stall to direct airflow away from the rest of the barn.
  • Ideally, the surfaces of the housing area, including the floor, should be non-porous and easy to clean.
  • The location should provide the ability to control access to restrict entry and movements of people, vehicles, equipment and horses.
  • Post signage advising access to the area is restricted and provide written protocols for entry.
  • Either dedicate staff to care only for the sick horses or implement protocols for routine staff to minimize the potential transmission of pathogens to other horses. Create barriers for pathogen transmission by caring for sick horses after the healthy herd and following appropriate protocols such as hand washing and clothing and footwear changes on entering and leaving the area.
  • Establish a manure storage area for these horses that is separate from the manure storage used for the healthy horses.
  • Stalls and paddocks must be cleaned and disinfected after use for the care and treatment of sick horses.
  • Your veterinarian or other sources of biosecurity expertise will be able to advise you on the best practices for separation.

Supplies and equipment

  • Dedicate equipment and supplies for the treatment of sick horses that is not shared with other animals. This includes waterers and feeders, water buckets, garbage containers, wheelbarrows, pitchforks, and horse tack (blankets, halters, leads, brushes, and foot picks).
  • Identify the equipment for use in this area using coloured paint, tape or a permanent marker.
  • Ensure there are handwashing or hand sanitation stations, a boot wash and dedicated outer clothing and boots.
  • Stock the necessary medical supplies including medications and thermometer.
Equipment, supplies and miscellaneous items for separating sick horses
Equipment Supplies Miscellaneous
  • Waterer and feeder
  • Water bucket
  • Hose
  • Boot wash pail
  • Boot brush
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Pitchfork, shovel, broom
  • Garbage container
  • Blankets
  • Halter, lead, twitch, brushes, foot picks
  • Water
  • Coveralls/cover-ups or set of additional outer clothes
  • Rubber boots or disposable boot covers
  • Disposable exam gloves, work gloves
  • Soap, disinfectant, hand sanitizer
  • Paper towels
  • Garbage bags
  • Medications, thermometer
  • Permanent marker, coloured tape
  • Biosecurity signage
  • Entry/visitor log
  • Written standard operating procedures
  • Horse identification, owner and veterinary contact information
  • Medical treatment record, temperature record
  • Pest management
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