Best health practice for horse shows and events

equestrian horsesHave horse – will travel! Every weekend thousands of Australians join together in the love of equine sports. Potential for circulation of horse diseases at agricultural shows and other horse events should come as no surprise. Horses travel to shows and other events from throughout Australia and mix freely, sometimes stay for a number of days, then disperse far and wide and, are often re-introduced to home properties with minimal precautions.

Large, well organized events such as Royal Shows, three and one day events and endurance rides often have one or more attending veterinarians with responsibility for monitoring the fitness and welfare of competing horses.

However many competitions and rallies take place over a day or less and do not have a veterinarian in attendance. The owner or person in charge of a horse that becomes sick could well remove it from the venue before anyone realizes that it was ill.

It is the responsibility of event organisers to maintain a record of Property Identification Codes (PIC’s) for all competitors for tracing purposes should there be a need during or after the event.

When someone advises event organizers that they are taking their horse home because it is off-colour or sick, the possibility that it could be suffering from a contagious disease should be considered.

To avoid problems:

  • Show officials should consider management of a potentially infectious diseases detected at a show as part of show risk management policy;
  • Don’t take sick horses (or horses which have been in contact with sick horses) to shows or events;
  • Use your own transport vehicle to take your horses to shows. Only transport other people’s horses if you are sure they are healthy;
  • Take your own feed bins, brushes, sponges and water buckets and avoid the use of communal water troughs;
  • Monitor the health of horses closely while away from home;
  • At competitions where horses are not stabled, try to tie your horses up well away from those owned by others so there is little, if any direct contact;
  • Avoid nose to nose contact with other horses;
  • Show officials should brief judges to ask each owner to open the mouth of their horse (to check for parrot or hog mouth), rather the judge moving from horse to horse and handling the mouth of each horse in the line-up;
  • Take rectal temperatures daily if the horse stays at the venue for a few days;
  • Report any potentially infectious illnesses to event officials;
  • Seek veterinary assistance promptly if your horse gets sick;
  • Keep records of the shows or events that your horse has attended, in case tracing is ever needed;
  • Isolate sick horses promptly if an infectious disease is suspected, keep their gear separate and handle them last, and;.
  • Most importantly, when horses return home from any competition, event or rally, observe them closely and, if you can, keep them separated from your other horses until you are certain they have not brought an infectious disease home with them.

Dr Patricia Ellis AM,
Honorary Veterinary Consultant Victorian Horse Council, September 2015