Keeping horses healthy: a biosecurity checklist for horse owners, trainers and service providers

Page last updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2018 - 3:08pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The Western Australian horse industry is committed to helping owners keep their horses and properties disease-free through the adoption of effective biosecurity measures. Biosecurity measures will reduce the chance of your horses catching a serious disease and introducing disease to your property. Horse owners, trainers and service providers all play a part in preventing the spread of disease.

This page contains information on practical biosecurity measures that all horse industry members can take to protect horses and the industry as a whole.

The checklist below summarises the actions needed to protect your horses and the WA horse industry from the devastating effects of emergency diseases and to minimise the spread of more common diseases.

Assess your management practices when at the stable or at an event with your horse. The more practices you adopt, the better your biosecurity and the less the risk of your horses and other horses getting sick.

At the stables

  • Maintain effective boundary and internal fencing
  • Ensure good drainage and manage manure
  • Control insects and rodents
  • Clean and disinfect stables, equipment and transport vehicles between uses
  • Monitor temperature of stabled horses (above 38.5 degrees Celsius suggests disease)
  • Isolate new arrivals and returning horses for seven days
  • Attend to isolated horses last, use separate equipment and disinfect after use
  • Wash hands between handling separately stabled horses
  • Vaccinate for common diseases and check the vaccination status of new arrivals
  • Use a fresh needle and syringe for every horse when vaccinating or giving medicine
  • Group horses by use and age into small groups
  • Keep records of horse movements
  • Keep records of visitors to the stables
  • Train stable handlers in disinfection methods and disease prevention, identification and control procedures.

Note: All horse owners should obtain a property identification code (PIC) from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development in order to assist in tracing in the event of an emergency disease.

Before and after events

  • Check horse health before and during events
  • Do not take sick animals to an event
  • Disinfect vehicles, equipment and boots before leaving and returning to your property
  • Destroy used bedding
  • Isolate horses returning from events for seven days.

Surfaces must be clean before disinfectants can work

  • Brush off loose mud and manure
  • Wash item with laundry detergent or soap first then use disinfectant
  • Dip grooming and veterinary tools in disinfectant
  • Wipe tack with a disinfectant-dampened cloth
  • Scrub or brush boots and spray with disinfectant
  • Wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

At an event

  • Clean housing/stables before you allow your horse to enter
  • Avoid horse-to-horse contact and other people touching your horse
  • Bring your own equipment
  • Do not share feed or water
  • Wash your hands between horses
  • Monitor horse health
  • Ask service providers to disinfect equipment and themselves before attending to your horse
  • Report disease signs or unusual behaviour in your horse to the event organiser
  • Observe event biosecurity and record keeping.

Healthy horses at rest have:

  • heart rate of 24–45 beats per minute
  • breathing rate of 8-16 breaths per minute
  • temperature of 36.5–38.5°C
  • clear eyes, a normal stance, no nasal discharge
  • capillary refill time of 1-2 seconds
  • hydration (pinch test) time of 1-2 seconds.

Report any signs of disease

If you see unusual illness or behaviour or unexpected deaths in horses, call your veterinarian immediately. If you suspect an emergency or reportable disease, ring the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.

Take care when handling sick horses

Horses infected with Hendra virus can transmit the virus to people. To date, seven people have been infected with Hendra virus and four of them have died. People are advised not to have close contact with any horse with signs suspicious of Hendra virus, and which may have had contact with flying foxes (fruit bats) or which have recently arrived from Queensland or northern New South Wales. Immediately isolate the horse from other horses, people and animals, and contact your veterinarian or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888 if you suspect a horse has Hendra virus.

Guidelines for handling horses suspected of Hendra virus and for personal protective equipment are available on the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website.

See the Hendra virus webpage for more information.


The checklist was developed by the Horse Alert WA reference group, with industry stakeholder collaboration. Reference group membership included Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA), the Western Australian Horse Council (WAHC), Equestrian Western Australia (EWA) and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia (DPIRD).

More information

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Field Veterinary Officer contacts are listed on the webpage: Livestock biosecurity program contacts


Marion Seymour