Tuesdays with Tony
The weather is changing, the days are shorter, there is snow up north, and the snowbirds are flocking to the south. This means it’s time for horse show season, my favorite time of year! I get to see all my old buddies from up north and hear about their summer adventures. With the start of show season also starts cold/flu season for people and for your horse. I have a very healthy immune system so I don’t worry about getting the flu, but I have been around long enough to know that horses are giant babies and get sick at the drop of a hat.
Maybe you’re not the horse-showing type, but do you take your horse on outings? Trail rides, camping, rodeos or anywhere else where your horse might be exposed to other horses you don’t know? Even if you don’t take your horse anywhere, do you board your horse? Have you recently bought a new horse and are integrating him to your herd? Or are there horses on your property that come and go that may be exposed to horses you don’t know? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your horse is at risk.
So, what do you do to protect your horse from getting sick while also getting to enjoy taking him places? As you all know, the first line of defense is vaccination. If you don’t remember which vaccines your horse needs, be sure to check out my past blogs on that topic. This week I’m going to talk to you about the preventative measures you can take while traveling with your horse to ward off the cooties.
More often than not, when taking your horse on outings, you may rent a stall. Stalls are super convenient, they give you a place to stash your horse so you can go off with your riding buddies, they are a safe place for your horse to stay overnight during a camping trip, and they provide a comfortable spot for your horse to rest during your trip. However, they are also cesspools where bacteria, viruses and all kinds of cooties like to live, leaving your horse susceptible to coming down with the ick.
When you get to your final destination, prior to unloading your horse, may I suggest you inspect the stall. Make sure it is clean and has been completely mucked out before you place your horse in the stall. This is also an ideal time to check the stall for random nails, broken boards and other hazards your horse will be sure to find and injure himself on. If you are a major germaphobe, I recommend bringing dilute bleach in a spray bottle with you that you can spray on the walls of the stalls prior to placing bedding and your horse in his stall. Of course this does not prevent your horse from contracting an illness but it can certainly lessen the chances.
Most facilities, whether horse shows, campgrounds, or rodeo facilities do not provide individual buckets for feeding and watering your horse. This is very good news. Community water and feed buckets are the ideal vehicles for transmitting bacteria, viruses, and other cooties that can make your horse sick. However, if the facility you are traveling to does have community buckets, I suggest that you do not allow your horse to share. Heck, I don’t even share my food bowl with Teenie Cat, and she’s my friend. I certainly would not share with a stranger. Why would you allow your horse to?
I recommend bringing all of your own buckets with you when you travel. This eliminates the transmission of illness via community buckets. If you forget a bucket and must share, be sure to scrub any community buckets with soap and water, and it won’t hurt to throw in a little bleach while you’re scrubbing, either. Be sure to rinse the buckets thoroughly prior to use.
Community water troughs: just don’t. Talk about a cesspool! These are the most disgusting, dirty, horrible places to allow your horse to drink. Besides the fact that they never get properly cleaned, water troughs breed bacteria and proliferate viruses. Sun + heat + water = the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. Add in a horse with a cold or the flu drinking from the already nasty water trough and you can basically watch the ick spread like wildfire. So do me and my docs a favor and don’t ever let your horses drink from community troughs.
What you can do instead is bring your own buckets. Offer your horses clean water at all times and avoid water troughs. If there isn’t a water spigot where you’re going except for the community trough, bring your own water. If you’re filling your buckets with a community hose, never let the hose touch the water in the bucket.
Water troughs in pastures at boarding facilities are common and often unavoidable. How can you help prevent your horse from contracting illness from the water trough where you board? Well for one, you can call my docs and get your horse properly vaccinated. I recommend the 2020 Wellness Plans as they provide your horse with all the appropriate vaccines, coggins, dental, and deworming they need for the year. It’s a no brainer, really.
You can also question the farm director/manager/owner on the vaccination requirements to be allowed to board your horse there. They should be very strict. This not only protects your horse, but also protects other boarder’s horses. If you have ever brought in your horse to my clinic you know I perform “catscans” on any trailer that comes in. I suggest you do the same when checking out boarding facilities. Do any of the horses there appear to be ill? Are the feed and water buckets and stalls cleaned? Are the pasture water troughs clean?
Sharing bits and other equipment between horses is another big no-no. This is a very common practice at lesson/boarding barns. However, it is also very avoidable. Have your own bridle and equipment designated to your horses, and do not allow others to use it without your permission. After every ride, wash your bit with soap and water to prevent bacteria from spreading. Wash your saddle pads often, as they can be a nidus for skin infections to spread from horse to horse. And don’t use equipment if you do not know which horse it has been on or whose it is.
Biosecurity is essential in maintaining your horses’ health. If you notice any signs of illness, first and foremost, call my docs so they can help guide you through ways to prevent spreading illness to other horses and take extra care not to share. Always, always, always have my docs vaccinate your horse on a proper schedule! They can guide you to what is best for your horse and their lifestyle. Remember when traveling with your horse, sharing is not always caring and it is best to be extra cautious and you will avoid having to end your travels early because your horse got someone else’s cooties.
Until next week,
P.S. Tony’s Pro Tip: If you haven’t been listening to Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth, the podcast my humans do, you’re missing out! The latest episode is on genetic testing, and they interviewed Dr. Samantha Brooks, an equine geneticist at UF. It’s well worth an hour of your time!
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!