If there’s an outbreak of a contagious disease such as strangles, ringworm, or lice on your yard, you’ll need to know how to quarantine all the affected horses.
So, what’s the purpose of quarantine and how do you do it?
What is quarantine?
The official definition of quarantine is:
“A state, period or place of isolation in which people or animals that have been exposed to infectious or contagious diseases are placed.”
If a horse becomes infected or is exposed to a highly infectious disease, it’s vital that all affected animals are quarantined immediately to prevent the disease from spreading.
When a horse is quarantined, you must make sure that all liveries, staff, and visitors to the yard are made aware of the protocols in place.
How to quarantine
It’s important that every livery yard has a written quarantine protocol in place that can quickly be put into action when required.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to quarantine a horse on your yard.
- To quarantine a horse, you’ll first need a stable that’s completely separated and well away from other horses.
- You will need a physical barrier or tape that can be used to mark the quarantine area. The barrier or tape should be at least eight feet from the front of the quarantine area to allow for equipment storage. Entry and exit points to and from the area must be clearly marked.
- Use clear signs to mark the quarantine area.
- Keep a separate set of equipment, including stable tools, haynets, headcollars, etc. Label each item, “For quarantine use only.”
- Keep all feed, forage, and bedding in a segregated area that’s well away from your main feed room.
- Have a supply of suitable disinfectant that’s not harmful to animals and humans. Your choice must be easy to dispose of and should also be non-corrosive as you’ll be using it to wash-down soiled equipment.
- A supply of overalls in different sizes is essential. They must be big enough to completely cover sleeves, collars, and trouser cuffs. After each use, you must disinfect and wash the overalls at a high temperature. You might prefer to use single-use overalls that can be safely disposed of after each use.
- You’ll need four plastic bins; two for soaking used overalls and two for foot dips.
- Put one foot dip at the entrance to the quarantine area and one at the exit. Fill the bins with a dilute disinfectant solution, as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. Replace the disinfectant as soon as it becomes contaminated with mud or muck.
- You’ll need a large spray bottle filled with diluted disinfectant solution, a box of disposable gloves, and a bottle of hand sanitizer or hand wash.
- All soiled bedding and muck should be placed in thick bin bags or old feed sacks. Set aside an area for the storage or disposal of muck and soiled bedding from the quarantined area. Don’t put it on your regular muck heap.
- When entering the quarantined area, only take in items that you will need. Anything you take it must be disinfected when you leave. Use the spray bottle of dilute disinfectant to clean caps, mobile phones, jewelry, etc.
How to use the quarantine area
- Only use the designated entry area to gain access to the quarantine area.
- Don’t enter the quarantine area unless you’re wearing clean overalls that cover all your clothes. Before handling the horse or any of the equipment, put on a pair of disposable gloves.
- Only use the tools and equipment that have been marked for use in the quarantine area.
- Keep your contact with the affected horse(s) to a minimum.
- When cleaning out water buckets, add neat disinfectant to any leftover water before you dispose of it, as it will be contaminated.
- Wash out feed bowls with disinfectant after each use.
- Any discharge or potentially infected blood from the horse that’s on the stable floor must be covered with neat disinfectant before washing and sweeping away.
- Muck and soiled bedding must be placed in the quarantine waste disposal area, not on your regular muck heap.
- Before removing equipment, including empty haynets and head collars from the quarantine area, be sure to dip and soak them in disinfectant.
How to exit the quarantine area
- When leaving the quarantine area, use the designated exit point only.
- Remove your overalls at the exit point, taking care not to rub your clothes on the outside of the overalls. Peel off the overalls inside out and don’t turn them right side out until they’ve been washed and disinfected. Dirty overalls should be put into the disinfected solution dips, making sure that they are completely immersed.
- Dispose of gloves, and disinfect your hands using the hand sanitizer. Dip your boots in the disinfectant dip, being careful to cover the exposed part of the boot and the sole.
When does the quarantine period end?
When the quarantine period ends will depend on the condition for which the horses are being treated, so always take veterinary advice before relaxing quarantine protocols.
Remember, some conditions such as strangles continue to be infectious for up to six weeks after the original infection has gone. If you end quarantine too soon, you could risk a further outbreak of the original disease.
When the quarantine period is over, safely store all the disinfected equipment, overalls, gloves etc in a designated storage area so that you have everything you need on hand in case of a new disease outbreak.
Having a written quarantine protocol on hand is essential for all livery yards, especially if new horses arrive regularly or residents travel to shows in other areas.
The ability to immediately put diseased horses in quarantine and manage them without spreading an infection to others can be a godsend.
Does your yard have a special quarantine area? Have you ever had cause to use it?
Tell us your story in the comments box below.