6 ways to protect your horse from influenza

In addition to vaccination, there are things you can do to reduce your horse's risk of developing influenza.

In addition to vaccination, the following measures can help reduce your horse’s risk of contracting influenza:

1. Reduce contact with unfamiliar horses. Not only can nose-to-nose “greetings” lead to squealing and nipping, it can allow viruses to pass from horse to horse. Not all contagious horses look or act sick, so unless you have information about a horse’s vaccination status and recent health history, it’s impossible to know if he poses a disease threat.

A group of horses drinking from a long trough
Shared troughs at shows and events can quickly spread diseases from horse to horse.

2. Do not share equipment. The influenza virus can survive on surfaces, such as tack and brushes, for several hours, possibly even days. Use your own equipment when you’re away from home, and if you must share an item, clean it first with a disinfecting soap or wipe before using it on your horse. At home, keep a separate set of tools and equipment for every horse in your care.

3.  Avoid communal water troughs or buckets. The influenza virus can survive in water for hours or days. Shared water is okay at home when you know the health status of your herd, but bring your own buckets to shows and trailheads, and keep your horse away from public troughs.

4. Segregate travelers from horses who stay at home. Horses who often go to shows and clinics are more likely to pick up influenza or other illnesses. It’s a good idea to keep them separated from horses who never leave the farm, especially pregnant mares and foals, for at least a week after they return.

Click here to learn what three things to investigate when your horse is uneasy in the trailer.

5. Quarantine new horses. Ideally, you’d have a separate turnout to keep a new horse separated for at least two weeks, long enough for him to show signs of any developing illnesses. If that’s not possible, consider alternating turnouts, putting the new horse out while the others are in the barn, and vice versa. Another alternative is to cordon off a portion of the existing pasture with temporary fencing; you’ll want to create a double fence, with about 10 feet in between, to prevent the horses from reaching over and touching noses.

6. Keep clean. Remember that viruses can pass from horse to horse on your hands and clothing as well as on tools and equipment. It’s a good idea to wash your hands with soap after handling each horse in your care. You might also consider keeping dispensers of hand sanitizers in your barn where you can reach them conveniently when needed.

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