One of the remarkable things about caring for horses is that we can sometimes prevent the Really Bad Stuff from happening, horse-health-wise, with some responsible practices. The importance of sound biosecurity comes to my attention on a fairly regular basis, just because there are so many little nasty bugs rolling around, waiting to take hold in our horses.

If our horses rarely leave the farm, and we (their humans) don't mingle with other horses and immediately come home and touch our own animals (without changing our clothes and washing our hands first), then the chances of unleashing a disease in our herd might be reduced, as compared to farms that transport horses in and out on a regular basis. Vaccinating against those infectious offenders spread by vectors such as mosquitoes, however, must still be a priority. And remember that if there's no buffer between you and your neighbor's pastures, curious noses might touch over the fence and introduce infection.

Biosecurity on the Farm

Bottom line: small farm or large, transient herd or not, you should be vigilant about avoiding the spread of infection no matter your situation. From isolating new additions to the farm to avoiding equipment sharing at group rides or competitions, there's a lot you can do to protect your horses.

The USDA has a useful brochure on biosecurity practices. Dr. Josie Traub-Dargatz of Colorado State University says that USDA will mail you packets of free brochures if you request them by contacting

I've also mentioned before that the University of Guelph has a biosecurity risk calculator, which it officially launched in July. While a few of the dropdown menus refer to Canadian locales, anyone worldwide can use this and evaluate their biosecurity practices. The calculated results include workable suggestions for avoiding disease outbreaks in your herd.

Here are some other helpful articles/resources on the subject of biosecurity:

What unexpected infectious disease encounters have you had as a horse owner? If you travel with your horses, what do you do on the road to reduce the risk of infectious diseases hitching a ride home with you?