Horse owners can reduce the chance of their horse contracting an infectious disease with a new guide produced by World Horse Welfare.

The guide was prepared by the charity in response to a rare outbreak of equine infectious anaemia (EIA), or swamp fever, in Wiltshire in January (news, 28 January).

It also follows World Horse Welfare’s livery yard survey (news, 26 November 2009) in which 61% of respondents said stables on livery yards are not cleaned out between occupants, 48% of yards have no isolation facilities and 38% said there were no procedures to exclude horses with disease on their yards.

Chief executive of the charity Roly Owers said: “Yards are not even minimising the risk
of the current disease threat. But the growing popularity of riding and the ever-increasing transport of horses means the UK disease threat is on the increase.”

He said the World Horse Welfare fears an “epidemic situation” if horse owners don’t get in the habit of good disease prevention practice before an incursion of a serious infectious disease.

The pamphlet has been welcomed by the British Equine Veterinary Association.

Former president Chris House told H&H: “Improved hygiene and biosecurity within equestrianism is something we have been pushing for ages.

“There are any number of infectious diseases that affect horses, from strangles and herpes, to upper respiratory infections, ringworm and mange.

“But while you have to disinfect yourself to go on a pig farm the same level of care does not apply to horses.”

Vet Andy Williamson of Uplands Way vet practice in Norfolk, who helped World Horse Welfare prepare the booklet, said: “Horse owners have a duty of care not only to their own horse but to the wider horse population.”

He suggests simple measures such as keeping a health diary of your horse so you can spot signs of illness quickly, and following worming and vaccination regimes.

The charity also advocates isolating new horses when they come onto a yard and having separate buckets, grooming kits and tack for each horse.

“Prevention is better than cure, we need people to spread the message not diseases,” added Mr Owers.

Order the disease prevention booklet from World Horse Welfare