The launch of the UK’s first equine biosecurity booklet, Plan Prevent Protect is set to help bring the equestrian world into line with farm and human health disease prevention, according to the collaborative authors, XLEquine and the Animal Health Trust (AHT).

The result of months of development between the AHT and XLEquine practice members, the booklet provides a step-by-step practical guide for horse owners and yard managers to work through with their vet to minimise disease risk and maintain the health and welfare of their horses.  

Speaking at the recent launch at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, Mark Tabachnik, of XLEquine member practice, Wright & Morten Veterinary Surgeons said: “For many yard and horse owners, biosecurity is just not on their radar. It only becomes important after they have had an outbreak!

“Strangles in particular can have devastating effects which impact not only on horse welfare, but the disruption and paralysis of animal movement has significant consequences with relationships on the yard, not to mention the financial costs in some cases.  

“We wanted to develop a practical guide that pre-empts these issues by helping owners to set in place simple and in many cases common sense, plans and procedures to prevent a disease outbreak, along with practical steps should the worst happen, and an outbreak occurs.  

“Our veterinary farm colleagues and the medical profession are well ahead in terms of biosecurity measures. It’s about changing people’s mindsets. For example the NHS ‘Catch it Bin it Kill it’ campaign has been highly successful in adapting our thoughts and actions towards disease spread, and consequently many of us are more aware of the importance of good biosecurity in one way or another.”  

Mr Tabachnik covered the top 10 tips for good biosecurity which include completing the guide’s risk assessment with a vet and setting up an isolation area.

“These areas don’t have to be big or expensive and all yards have somewhere this can be done, even the corner of a field can suffice.  

Vaccination is important, as is having a policy for new arrivals, but simple things like designated headcollars and regular hand washing can all help.”  

Dr Richard Newton, head of epidemiology and disease surveillance with AHT, was also involved in the development of the booklet and said changing the thinking and habits of horse and yard owners in the way they think about biosecurity was crucial.

“Practical biosecurity measures are an insurance policy, but contrary to many beliefs most of it is simple, inexpensive and common sense,” he said.  

“Large multi horse owner yards with a ‘hands off’ yard owner are the most challenging because usually there is no one to drive things forward collectively. But a good starting point in these situations is to talk to your vet.  

“I hope that this will encourage all equine practices to raise their game, it is so important for the whole equine community,” added Dr Newton.  

The booklet provides an introduction to the contagious diseases affecting horses, including some exotic ones that might be seen at some point in the future in the UK. It includes a centrefold risk assessment guide for owners to complete with their vet.  

The booklet is available to all equine clients of XLEquine member practices, or it is available to view at Mr Tabachnik said he strongly recommended that owners sought support from their vet in completing the risk assessment and putting a plan in place.

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