Contagious diseases can be a nightmare in barns; if one horse becomes ill, it is vital to quarantine him to contain the disease. Knowing how to properly quarantine a horse at your facility can prevent a large-scale disease spread.
If at all possible, stall the ill horse in a separate barn, alone. Alternatively, a shed in a paddock can also serve as a temporary quarantine space – but be sure that no horses are turned out in any adjoining paddocks. If stalling the horse in a separate barn is not possible, then put him in the horse stall at the very end of a barn aisle and remove horses from any adjacent stalls.
Once the sick horse has been separated, designate a quarantine zone around his stall and rope it off to prevent people from traveling through it. Mark tools with red tape to be used for his care alone. This includes a manure fork and wheelbarrow, a water bucket, feed bucket and tub, halter and lead line, and grooming kit. Keep these tools inside the quarantine zone. Create a separate manure pile for the sick horse which is located away from the regular manure pile. Use one only for the sick horse, and if you do use a hose, hold it above the bucket while filling it; laying the hose inside the bucket can further spread germs.
If it’s possible, a single person should care for the sick horse only, and should not work with any other horses. If this is not possible, then the sick horse should be cared for last, and by as few people as possible. Wear disposable plastic gloves and a set of shoes only worn while for caring for the sick horse. Wearing hospital plastic booties over your shoes is another option; throw them away before entering the rest of the barn area.
Disinfectants, including soap and water, hand sanitizer, bleach, and disinfecting foot baths, are important to the quarantine effort and should be located on both sides of the quarantine area, as well as throughout the barn. Provide a covered tub in which staff may put clothing (such as shoes or aprons) worn while tending to the sick horse. Also be sure to provide a covered wastebasket for discarded gloves, and remove the trash daily. Your wheelbarrow can also spread germs if it is wheeled through communal areas; you may need to disinfect it on a daily basis.
Make everyone at the barn aware of the quarantine zone. Post signs, both at the quarantine zone itself and in other areas of the barn to alert people of the issue. Stress that no one is to go into the zone except for designated staff, and discuss safety procedures with your staff, such as washing hands frequently and treating the sick horse last.
Proper quarantine is a huge effort, and you might find it better for all involved to send the horse to a veterinary clinic with a quarantine setup until the horse has recovered. If you do quarantine the horse yourself, talk with your veterinarian to make sure you thoroughly understand the risks and symptoms of your horse’s disease.