Isolation guidelines for horses


What does this mean? It means that when you have an ill horse or a horse that you suspect is ill, you now have a set of guidelines to isolate him from the rest of the barn in order to hopefully prevent the spread of contagious diseases.


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  • We are all familiar with the scenario of going to a big show, and a virus travels around the show, and as horses go home, the virus can spread even further. Let’s work to break that cycle.


horse shed attached to dry lot for isolation

This smaller shed, away from the barn, makes a good place to isolate a horse with a fever.



Institute some biosecurity measures around the barn.


  • As a very general rule of thumb, you should be checking all horse temperatures at least once a day, more often if you are coming home from a show, have traveled to a new barn, or have had outside horses visit your barn.


  • Why take the temps of your horses? Because a horse can have a contagious virus and a fever without showing any outward signs of being ill. So, you are delaying treatment and allowing the potential spread of disease.


  • Another rule of thumb is that nasal discharge generally indicates an airborne virus.


Here are some smart guidelines to follow when isolating a horse:


  • It’s smart to be cautious. What’s that old saying about an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure?
  • Separate healthy horses from a sick one. If you need to, cover windows and openings between stalls with plywood. Definitely avoid all contact between horses, and remember that you can act as a carrier, so no going down the barn aisle petting everyone.
  • Don’t share brushes, buckets, tubs, manure rakes, wheelbarrows, hay, etc. Have a set of everything that is specific for the isolated horse.
  • Feed, muck, and groom the isolated horse last. Wear coveralls, or change clothes to work with the isolated horse. Disposable gloves could be handy, also.
  • Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands. Hand sanitizers can be easily stored outside of the stall.
  • Create a foot bath, using a 10 to 1 ratio of water to bleach. This foot bath can be kept in a shallow pan outside of the isolated horse’s stall, and dip your shoes into it before and after working with the isolated horse. Change the mixture daily as bleach will break down over time in the water. Your Vet may have another suggestion for a foot bath formula as well.
  • Take the temps of all horses in the barn twice daily.
  • Work with your veterinarian to monitor the health of all of the horses in the barn.


horse thermometer with attached string


If you are moving into a new barn, a show grounds, or somewhere that you feel needs to be disinfected, you have an easy solution.


  • Use a mixture of 7:1 bleach to water in a spray bottle to coat the new stall before you move in. Don’t forget the front of the stall, and around any windows or openings that other horses may have come into contact with. Allow this to dry and then move your horse in. Adequate ventilation will help with the drying process.


  • You can also wipe or hose down the stall after your bleach treatment if you like, this will help with any residual fumes if you need to move in super quickly.


  • As your horse gets settled at a show or a new stable, keep your isolation procedures in place as he adjusts to his new routine and environment. This will also protect the other horses in the area!



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Thank you!