How to Develop an Effective Biosecurity Program

Congratulations! You are on your way to starting (or updating!) your biosecurity program to protect your horses and farm.The first step is to consider how you are at risk and identifying those risks. A risk assessment can be started by every horse owner to clearly identify what concerns and disease transmission risk s exist for an individual animal, herd, and premise. When performing a risk assessment, you must keep in mind the varying factors that affect disease introduction, transmission and recycling.

Step 1: Risk Assessments

Biosecurity programs should be developed specific to each horse, herd, horse owner's or facilities individual needs. The most effective wayto evaluate need is to participate in a risk assessment survey of risk factors. Following a risk assessment, you and your veterinarian can clearly identify the following:

What areas have sufficient biosecurity in place?

Where can you change the way daily operations  are done to improve disease prevention andxontrof?- -

How can biosecurity be improved?

After completing a risk assessment survey, horse owners can have  an  educated  discussion with their veterinarian about biosecurity and make informed decisions about which biosecurity protocols to implement to manage their unique risk.

The following Risk Assessment Charts are designed for horse owners and facility operators to effectively review their current herd demographic, facility design and horse and facility riskfactors to pinpoint disease control and prevention areas. It serves as a powerful tool to use in discussions with your veterinarian about developing specific protocols that you may consider implementing based on risk factors.

The following Risk Assessment surveys are S separated into 5 sections:  

1. Animal Risk Factors 

2. Feed and Water Risk Factors     3. Owner and Employee Risk Factors 

4. Visitor and Facility Users Risk Factors 

5. Premise Risk Factors 

Each area inquires about what your current practices are for disease control and prevention. Once you have identified current practices, you can  analyse your answers to determine what areas you want to implement additional biosecurity practices.

Once risk assessment has been completed, the next step is to decide what practices of disease control and prevention you want to engage in. Your veterinarian can help you prioritize areas for implementation based on your real and perceived risks.

Step 2: Identifying protocol for implementation

Let's be honest. Biosecurity isn't always convenient. If it was, everyone would do it! But it is necessary in many situations, to protect your horse's health and the health of the horses in your equine community and in some cases, human health.

Develop your personalised biosecurity program using the 3 management pillars of biosecurity.

Animal health management and, Access management and, Operational management

These pillars cannot be viewed in isolation. To do so may give a horse owner a false sense of security that they are doing what they can to be proactive in disease control, when they may not be. You must consider all the variables of animals, facilities and people to develop the best most effective program. Your veterinarian is the trained professional to account for all the variable and offer advice on how to manage a complex environment.

Access Management

Access management principles serve to address risk management by looking at how disease may be introduced into a herd, either from outside the farm or from another group of animals on the same premise. This pillar focuses on knowing what areas of a farm, barn or stable are needed based on the use of the facilities and animal movement.

Control Access to Farms, Barns and Horses at Critical Points

Establish visitor parking well away from barns, pens and pastures. Use clear signs!

Consider having a clearly identified area for visiting horse trailers to park, well away from the main entrance to the facility, barn or paddocks and pastures

Establish zones to reflect differing standards of biosecurity

Public Access Zone 

is an area with where no animal contact or crossover is anticipated. Identifying a public zone indicates to the public that there are also areas where you may not go! These areas may include viewing/bleacher area parking lot, stable/event office etc.

Controlled Access Zone is an area that you may identify around barns, pens, handling areas that should be restricted to employees and biosecurity educated facility users. May be identified by a fence, sign, strip of crushed gravel etc.

Restricted access zones should be any area/pasture/pen where animals commonly reside.

Quarantine should be an area used for newly arriving animals as an evaluation for disease status before being introduced to main herd (especially important fonclosedl herds) or for animals that may be at risk of contracting disease e.g. compromised animals. The following are important components of a quarantine program:

Maintain a 2-3 week period of quarantine.

Eliminate nose to nose contact with any other horses.

Have separate waterers, feed bins and buckets for quarantined horses.

Label equipment, including halter, shovel, bucket, blanket, bridle etc., as QUARANTINE and with the horse name

Post signs outside of quarantine pens and stalls indicating quarantine status and restricted access.

Wash hands prior to going in and coming out of pens/stalls.

Clean and disinfect boots when exiting.

Best practices for quarantine programs include:

Having outwear dedicated to the quarantine horses and labeled as such.

Restricting facility use by horses in quarantine until quarantine period is expired e.g. wash rack, arena, alleyway would be off limits.

Isolation should be used for sick animals and should have the highest level of biosecurity protocols in place.The following are components of an effective isolation set up:

NO contact with any other horses.

Wash hands prior to going in and coming out of pens/ stalls.

If in a stall, have atthe end of the row and with an empty stall beside the isolation stall.

Have separate waterers, feed bins and buckets for isolation horses. Clean and disinfect daily.

Have non porous (rubber) boots identified as isolation boots. Clean and disinfect them prior to going into isolation and upon exit from isolation. Consider using disposable booties also.

Label equipment, including halter, shovel, bucket, blanket, bridle etc., as ISOLATION! and with the horse name.

Keep isolation equipment in a closed bin directly outside the quarantine stall/pen. Disinfect the outside every time it is opened.

Post signs outside of isolation pens and stalls indicating isolation status and restricted access. Signs are most effective if posted a bit away from the stall/pen versus directly on the stall.

Have coveralls specifically for use in isolation. Label them  and  launder them  after each  use or animal.

Keep a covered isolation laundry bin directly outside isolation. Wash isolation laundry with detergent and bleach. Wear gloves when transferring to washer. 

Remember to label the washer as isolation!

Keep clean "ISOLATION" coveralls in a closed bin outside the isolation area for quick access.

Horses should not leave isolation until cleared by veterinarian as being safe to return to general population. Some horses may still be infectious even if they are not showing clinical signs.

All facility use is off limits to protect other horses in the facility.

Best Practice: Use disposable coveralls and dispose of them after each use, in a covered isolation garbage.

Post biosecurity signs at barn and pasture entrances. Additional signage may benefit specific cases, such as outside the stall of a new horse.

Best Practice: Restrict pets'access to horses in different access zones. Whether they are from the neighbors, visitors or stray animals, they can present a risk for transmitting disease from groups of horses or farm to farm. For example, there is a story of a collie that roamed a neighborhood and is suspected to have been the cause of spreading a significant bacterial disease thru the small community. There was no concurrent documented travel by the horses or farm to farm visits by the people to allow for the introduction of the disease.

Manage Visitor Risk

Visitors, especially those providing your     animal health services such as the veterinarian or farrier carry real risks for in-    traducing disease to your herd. You can manage this risk by following some of these Best Practices:

Advise visitors prior to their arrival on farm that there are biosecurity expectations in place and ask they report to the office or house before attending animal areas.

Establish visitor parking well away from animal handling and living areas and post clear visible signs.

Askvisitors about recenttravel and animal contact, especially out of country. Use enhanced measures if visitors have travelled abroad in the last 2 weeks.

Restrict visitor access to animals where possible.

If contact is planned, have clean or disposable coveralls and boots for visitors to wear. This will limit the chance that any pathogenic organisms on their clothes or footwear will be passed to your animals.

You as a visitor

 If you are leaving your farm to visit another farm, apply visitor recommendations to yourself. Wear clean clothes and footwear to the visiting premise and launder clothes and disinfect footwear immediately upon return, prior to going to animal areas.

Summary for an Effective Biosecurity Program: Access Management

Control access to your farm, barn and animal areas at critical points

Quarantine new arrivals to your farm, facility, operation

Manage visitor risk

Minimize the risk you pose as a visitor to other facilities, events and farms

A visitor log or guest book can be used to track human movement in the event ofa disease outbreak

Maintaining a closed herd is a low risk situation

Quarantine horses on arrival; includes new horses or horses returning home from a comingling site such as a show, auction, rodeo or veterinary clinic

House horses that do not leave the property separately from those that do

This management technique will help protect the horses that do not leave the property from the variety of viral and/or bacterial diseases that travelling horses may be exposed to and bring home

This is especially important for broodmares in foal

For these groups, avoid nose to nose contact and sharing waterers, feeders, buckets and such with the travelling group

Prior to moving young or sick animals, map a route that is not through a heavily used area such as alleyways, tie areas or arena

Participate in traceability programs

Enhance animal segregation with additional Mosecurity measures including:

 Regulate pedestrian, vehicle traffic and manure handling to reduce cross contamination and closeness to animals. Consider the direction and timing for this disease reduction strategy.

 Limit equipment movement between pens, clean and disinfect thoroughly if unavoidable.

 Plan alleyways, gates and doors to be able to easily move animals without cross contaminating other living areas.

Ensure transport trucks are clean, disinfected and rinsed properly prior to transporting horses.

In the event it is not practical to quarantine horses on return home, you must be diligent about minimizing your risk of contracting a viral or bacterial disease while away from home.

Manage disease risk while travelling

If you are travelling with horses on a weekly or even monthly basis, attending agricultural events, maybe competing or attending clinics, it may not be practical for you to quarantine your horses when they return home. If this is your case, here are some recommendations you should consider to minimize the risk of bringing home a disease:

Ensure your horse, and any that it might be in contact with when it returns home, have vaccinations that are current and relevant to the diseases in your area. Consult your veterinarian to establish a relevant vaccination program for travelling horses and those they are in contact with!

Bring your own water bucket and avoid commu nal waterers and troughs. Do not let your horse drink from communal water sources. Fill your bucket from a hose or pump that delivers fresh clean water.

Tie your horse to your own trailer. Ifyou must tie to another site, choose a non porous surface and disinfect it prior to leaving your horse tied.

  When   arriving   at   your   event,   staging   area   or temporary stall:

a. Remove used bedding that may be present 

b. Clean the walls, railings and door to remove organic material (mud, manure, dirt). 

c. Disinfect the walls, railings, doors, and floor (if not dirt) paying attention to water-ers and handles, and latches. ensure you leave the 

Disinfectant on for the appropriate contact time and rinse if required by manufacturers instructions. 

d. Put in fresh clean bedding (if needed)

Monitor individual animal and herd health

In conjunction with your veterinarian, establish a Disease Response Plan. A disease response plan is especially valuable if there is more than 1 person who may be in charge of the care of your horses. It may include:

Normal horse vital signs and guidelines about when values are abnormal.

When to contact a veterinarian, who will contact the veterinarian and contact information.

Treatment protocols approved by yo.ur veterinarian.

Protocols for in the event of an emergency, such as colic, tangled in wire, trailer accident, severe weather etc.

Establish and follow regular routines for observing animals; daily is recommended. Keep a record for individual animals that may include: Normal values for vital statistics (heart rate, respiration rate, temperature, gut sounds, weight, height. Notes of changes of behaviour, feeding pattern. Veterinary examinations.

Medications administered (including dose, amount, frequency, duration).

Vaccines or dewormers administered.

Work with a veterinarian to design a personalized vaccine program for your particular herds.

Follow established vaccine program; consultyour veterinarian prior to diverging.

Quarantine new animals until disease status is established and vaccinations are in place.

Isolate sick animals as soon as possible and consult your veterinarian for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Summary for an Effective Biosecurity Program: Animal Management

Quarantine new animals for a minimum of 2-3 weeks

Participate in traceability programs

Handle healthy animals before sick animals as routine practice

Establish a disease response plan with your veterinarian

Keep a health record for each animal

Get veterinary advice about vaccination protocols for your horse(s)

Isolate sick animals as soon as possible and consult your veterinarian for appropriate diagnosis and treatment

Operational Management

Animal Husbandry

Wash your hands after handling a horse and before handling a horse in a different zones

Keep young or susceptible animals as clean and dry as possible

Use pastures that are well drained

Avoid forcing animals to graze down to the roots of grasslands to limit the parasites they ingest residing on the ground

Handle healthy horses before sick horses as routine practice

Monitor all animals on a daily basis for normal versus abnormal behavior and health indicators such as:

Wounds, lesions, hair loss

Signs of depression

Abnormal  discharge from  eyes  or nose

Clean and Disinfect Equipment and Barns

Designate equipment for each horse, herd and farm

Avoid sharing equipment with other barns

Wash vehicles regularly, and especially after visiting another farm or co-mingling site, high pressure wash and disinfectant   the under   carriage    and wheel wells.

Keep the interior cab of farm vehicles clean and free of dirty coveralls,  boots  or equipment, Disinfect regularly.

   Follow manufacturer's directions when using commercial   cleaning and    disinfection products.

Keep in mind the following points when cleaning and disinfecting equipment, barns, pens, stalls:

Read all labels thoroughly for Use, Direction, Safety Requirements and Toxological Information.

Cleaning and Disinfection should have a protocol just as vaccination and medication programs.

In the protocol record the following information:

Product used

Rationale for selection of that product

Concentration used (include calculations)

Mixing procedure

Volume used

Area covered

Application method (spray, fog, etc.) Safety precautions suggested by manufacturer Drying conditions Cleaner used > Validations for all of the above Disinfectants have strengths  and  weaknesses. Those that are excellent against bacteria may not  be  the  product  of choice   against   viruses. Ease of application and safety are major considerations.   Consult  your veterinarian for recommendations.

 There are alkaline and acid cleaners. DO NOT USE (OR MIX) CHLORINE WITH ACID CLEANERS.

 Use the correct dilution of disinfectant. Disinfectants work best at approved levels. More is not necessarily better.

 Disinfectants must be mixed properly before use. Use warm or hot water to mix disinfectants, as most disinfectants, detergents and soaps have increased activity in warm water.

 Follow local government regulations regarding the application of disinfectants to ensure compliance with environmental legislation.

Cleaning and Disinfection Protocol

Here is a sample cleaning and disinfection protocol that may be modified to fit your own use and facility. This protocol may be applied to rails, equine stalls, stocks, tie rail, walls, doors and non porous floors to clean and disinfect. Don't forget your horse trailer!

I.The floors will initially be scooped and free of fecal material. Fecal material will be transported by wheelbarrow to identified area where uncontaminated animal waste is to be deposited; ideally compost area. Floors may also be swept if applicable.

2.The animal housing/treatment area such as rails, chutes, stalls, stocks and walls, doors and floors should be sprayed and cleaned. Consider using a dilution device such as a pressure washer with hot water and detergent (such as Nutra-foam or Sunlight™, which is a neutral pH detergent). The area will be generally scrubbed and washed and free from any gross contaminant.

3.The area should be leftto dry. If area use is continuing within the same day, the area should be squeegied in order to remove as much water as possible.

4.The following day, after drying, the area will be completely covered in diinfectant solution (such as Virkon 

5. If time does not allow for complete drying before applying disinfectant solution, squeegee as much water as possible to the drain; apply disinfectant and . allow a minimum contact time of according to manufacturer's directions. (Virkon 1% is 15 minutes) After this, if the area is needed; the Virkon may then be squeegeed off.

Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

For producers, staff and visitors entering restricted areas, including isolation or quarantine:

Have clean coveralls and boots available for visitors and service personnel...and make sure they use them! This will minimize the risk visitors will introduce a disease causing pathogen into your herd.

Consider using disposable booties and coveralls when entering quarantine and/ or isolation.

Control Pests with a

Pest Management Program

Conduct control measures weekly to effectively disrupt the fly lifecycle.

If/when insecticides are used, remove animals and follow manufacturer's directions.

Build rodent proof feed storage areas.

Keep vegetation mowed short and eliminate standing water sites.

Establish, follow and document a de-worming program for all species on the premise.

Use bait stations for insects and rodents. Be sure they are out of reach of pets and stray animals.

Eliminate pest habitats and breeding areas for pests.

Clean up manure, spilled feed and standing water as soon as possible.

Keep feed stored in pest proof bins.

Communicate with neighbors about your efforts to reduce fly populations.

Communicate Biosecurity Program Effectively

Use highly visible clear signage to post your biosecurity protocols.

Include biosecurity protocols in staff training and document employees completion of training.

Educate facility users about      biosecurity expectations. Consider adding a discussion of biosecurity to a Welcome Booklet.

Make Visitors aware of biosecurity protocols before they arrive on the farmj-at the' barn or at the stable.

Keep a Visitor log book with date, name and any previous animal contact in the last 7 days. Display the log book in a location that is accessible to employees, facility users, owners and visitors. Encourage them to use it!

Consider having a copy of the facilities biosecurity program and protocols available for review in the same location as -tbe guest book,  

Visitors should be accompanied by an employee or facility user educated in the biosecurity expectations to assist in cornpliance with biosecu-rity protocols or ensure signage is adequate to communicate expectations.

Enhance your biosecu-rity measures with the following Best Practices.

Identify access/entry points (roadways,
laneways etc.), ideally with a physical barrier such as a gate.

Establish vaccine expectations for haul in facility users; ask them to commit to meeting those expectations by signing a waiver or providing proof of vaccines with the indi vidual horses health record.

 Consider recognizing an individual with your organization, barn, riding club etc. as a Biosecurity Champion. Maybe it is the stable manager, or riding instructor, or a facility user with an interest in animal health and wellness. Their role might include: 

Documenting biosecurity  program for your club

Go to person for information on your club's biosecurity standards 

Summary for an Effective Biosecurity Program: Operational Management 

Communicate biosecurity  program effectively with clear visible signs 

Control pests and pets 

Encourage use of personal protective equipment (PPE) 

Clean and disinfect equipment prior to and after use 

Maintain good animal husbandry

Where can you get help?

NO biosecurity program is 100% effective because programs are only effective as long as owners, handlers and visitors are educated about the program and are committed to practicing good disease prevention and control. EVERYDAY.

Veterinarians are the logical choice to help protectthe health and wellness ofyourequine partners. Disease control is their professional area of focus in the interests of animal health and public health.The information presented in this booklet is intended to encourage you to have an educated discussion with your veterinarian to be sure that you are doing what you can (and want to do!) to protect your equine investment and fulfill your obligation of protecting the equine community at large. Specific questions, concerns, ideas and protocols should be discussed with your veterinarian who has the best understanding of your risk factors. Use that resource!


You have obligations as a member of the equine community. One of those obligations is to practice safe and effective means of disease prevention and control. Be conscious of your role in the transmission of pathogenic organisms and how those organisms may affect you, your horse, your herd, and the equine community at large. Do not travel with your horse if you suspect your horse or another horse that it is housed with, has a contagious disease.

Effective biosecurity programs can be developed in 2 steps. Step #1 is assessing your horses' risk of contracting (and spreading) pathogenic organisms that may cause disease. At the end of this booklet are a series of Risk Assessment charts that may be used by horse owners, handlers, facility operators, event managers and anyone who has or is involved in horses. Complete them at your leisure to identify areas that may require some attention to close gaps in disease transmission, introduction and recycling. You may also consider using them as a platform to discuss specific biosecurity recommendations with your veterinarian.

Step #2 of establishing effective biosecurity is implementation of procedures and protocols related to risk management. Signage, education awareness and commitment are key components to effective programs.This manual contains a wide variety of recommendations based on the 3 pillars of biosecurity including Animal Management, Access Management and Operational Management. Implement them all, or pick and choose which recommendations are practical for your situation. Be aware and educated of the risks you need to manage and the choices you can make to manage those risks.


Best Practices: For this document a best practice is a program, process, strategy, or activity that has been shown to be effective in the prevention and control of disease; is based on current information; is of value to, or transferable to, other organizations.

Biocontainment: Keeping disease causing pathogens inside a particular area to avoid contaminating other animals, equipment, premises etc.

Bioexclusion: a set of practices used to minimize the introduction of pathogens and pests in animal and plant populations into specific pathogen free (SPF) herds/facilities, breeding facilities or other such operations.

Biosecurity: a set of practices used to minimize the transmission of pathogens and pests in animal and plant populations including their introduction (bioexclusion), spread within the populations, and release (biocontainment)

Comingling Site: Any location where animals are brought together from more than one location; May be short or long term; Examples include veterinary clinic, auction, summer pasture, staging site, horse show, rodeo, 4-H event, horse clinic etc.

Closed Herd: A herd the does not introduce new animalson a regular basis; maintains its own breeding stock; is isolated from direct contact with other same species herds, flocks etc.; introduction of new animals follows a strict quarantine and observation period which may include diagnostic testing to determine health status.

Contact time: A specific amount of time, identified by manufacturers, required by disinfectants to adequately disinfect or sterilize a surface; may vary with concentration, temperature, presence/absence of organic matter.

Decontamination: the process that removes microorganisms from an object, rendering it safe for handling; the process of cleaning, followed by the inactivation of pathogenic microorganisms, in order to render an object safe for handling.

Disinfectant: a chemical agent used on inanimate objects to destroy virtually all recognized pathogenic microorganisms, but not all microbial forms (e.g. bacterial spores).

Disinfection: a process that kills most organisms but rarely kills all spores; a process that kills most forms of microorganisms on inanimate surfaces; 3 levels of disinfection are low, intermediate and high.

Fomite: An inanimate object or substance, such as clothing, furniture, or soap, that is capable of transmitting infectious organisms from one individual to another.

AD: Foreign Animal Disease; a disease not normally found n Canada; federally and provincially reportable by a veterinarian or diagnostic lab immediately upon suspicion or confirmation of presence in animal(s).

Infectious Agent: microorganism capable of causing disease n humans; infectivity is affected by the organisms'viability, virulence, invasiveness and pathogenicity.

Mode of Transmission: the method whereby the organisms are transmitted from one place to the next. Examples may be by direct contact, indirect contact with a contaminated body substance, vectors, and fomites (contact with inanimate objects carrying infectious disease).

Pathogen: something that can cause disease; e.g. bacteria, virus, toxin

Personal protective equipment (PPE): Specialized equipment or protective clothing used to protect oneself from direct exposure to blood, tissue or body fluids; may include gloves, gowns, fluid-resistant aprons, head and foot coverings, face shields or masks, eye protection, and ventilation devices (e.g. mouthpieces, respirator bags, pocket masks).

Premise: an area of land where recordable animals are bred, kept, raised, displayed, assembled^or disposed of.

Protocol: a set of rules or practices that outline a way of behaviour or accomplishing tasks, daily operations, treatments; ideally written and accessible to employees, facility users, producers, horse owners.

Reportable: A disease that either the federal or provincial government identify as poses a risk to animal or public health and safety.

Reservoir: a source that allows for microbial growth and multiplication; examples include people, equipment, and materials.

Sanitize: a process that substantially reduced the bacterial count without eliminating all microbial forms.

Sterilization: a process that kills all microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, spores and fungi.

Susceptible Host: a person or animal who lacks the immunity or resistance to the invasion of the body and reproduction by the microorganisms, resulting in infection.

Vector: An organism, such as a mosquito, tick or person, that transmits disease-causing microorganisms from an infected person or animal to another.

Zoonotic Disease: disease caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi that are transmitted from animals and insects to humans and can cause human disease. E.g. Methicillan Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Salmonella ssp.