Many horse owners love competing, but travelling around the country and coming into contact with other horses could put your horse at risk of infection and disease. Here's how to keep your horse safe in the company of others.
Risk: contact with other horses
Unfortunately, many of the diseases that can make our horses gravely ill can be spread from horse to horse.
One highly contagious disease is Strangles, a respiratory disease that is spread via the pus or discharge from infected horses’ noses, draining lymph nodes, or by coughing.1 For example, if your horse has nose-to-nose contact with an infected horse at an event, or if they share food, water troughs or tack, they could be at risk.
Equine herpes virus is another disease that can be contracted from other horses, for example, your horse may breathe in the virus from an infected horse, or there may be indirect transmission when your horse comes into contact with infected equipment.2
Risk: new environments
Enjoying events means travelling to new places – that's part of the fun! However, exposure to new environments also exposes your horse to potential new risks.
Take Hendra: One of the many concerns with Hendra virus is its mode of transmission. It's believed that the Hendra virus is transmitted from fruit bats to horses via feed contaminated with fruit bat urine, faeces or body fluids.3 So even if you live in an area that has very few fruit bats, you may increase your horse's risk of exposure when you travel to an event in an area that has many fruit bats.
Another infection to keep in mind is tetanus, a bacterial disease that can be fatal. Although tetanus is not passed from horse to horse, it is a widespread disease: it's caused by an organism called Clostridium tetani that lives in soil and manure and enters the body through wounds.4,5
You may keep your paddocks clear of stones and sharp objects that can cause injury, but you can't ensure your horse will avoid cuts and injuries at every destination.
It's easy to protect your horse at events
Apart from ensuring your horse does not share food, water or equipment with other horses, you can take steps to ensure you and your horse can both enjoy competing without worrying about catching a disease.
Vaccination is the key to protection –your vet can advise on the exact requirements for your horse. Check out the latest Vaccination Guidelines
Ask your vet about the vaccines needed to help protect your horse from health risks at events
- Queensland Horse Council Inc. Strangles Fact Sheet, May 2010.
- Queensland Horse Council Inc. Equine Herpes Virus Fact Sheet, March 2009.
- Hess IMR, Massey PD, Walker B, Middleton DJ, Wright TM. Hendra Virus: What do we know? NSW Public Health Bulletin, 2011; 22(5-6): 118-22.
- Hoare R. Horse health – vaccination against tetanus and strangles. PrimeFact 495, June 2007. NSW Department of Primary Industries. www.industry.nsw.gov.au
- Queensland Horse Council Inc. Tetanus Fact Sheet, May 2010.