It’s great to be excited knowing you just pulled a horse from a feedlot or outbid a kill buyer at auction and got a sweet older horse to for your grandchild, but before you get lost in the euphoria of rescuing a horse, you should have a plan in place for holding the horse to ensure it is healthy. This is not a particularly riveting topic, but it is incredibly important. I hope you will read through to the end.
What should you think about when you rescue a horse from auction, or feedlot? First thing is the safety and welfare of any other horses you have on your property. Quarantine is a term that is often mentioned when people talk about taking in rescues. But what exactly is a proper quarantine procedure? Here are some helpful hints: Number one is keeping any new horse safely away from other horses on the property for 30 days. That means at least 250 feet of separation. Depending on your region and the season, more space may be needed to account for flies and mosquitos which can transmit disease. Putting a new horse in a barn, inline stall, or group corral situation will not suffice. Many equine diseases like strangles or equine herpes virus (EHV) can be spread through the air and may not be apparent for up to 10-14 days.
Other best practices for quarantine include keeping ALL brushes, rakes, tack, lead ropes, halters, and blankets separate from other horses. During the time a horse is in quarantine, it is imperative to avoid cross contamination. Also, a good practice is to save mucking of the quarantine horse’s stall for last. That way, you can decontaminate your boots and rakes using a germicidal product like Lysol, or a mixture of 1 part bleach to 2 parts water.
As for exercising a horse that comes from an unknown background, it is best to exercise it in a separate facility from other horses. A round pen is a good option. In some cases, a rescue horse may be underweight and not able to do much, but the option of letting it have some liberty movement is important for maintaining normal gut functions, and can actually help the animal by inducing a desire to eat and drink.
I see many posts online about quarantining horses, but rarely include specific information about what that means. Taking in a new horse from an unfamiliar background requires more effort and a good plan.
Have a veterinarian do an assessment when your rescue arrives. A veterinarian can assess the horse’s overall health and can check for parasites, body score, etc…. During the quarantine period, it is important to check the horse’s temperature at least once a day. Changes in temperature can indicate the onset of a problem. It is best to consult your veterinarian if the horse suddenly spikes a temperature.
It is also important to limit contact with other people that may be coming to see horses on the property, including the farrier. If the farrier needs to work on a horse in QT, you should apprise them of the horse’s unknown health status – the last thing any equine professional wants to do is endanger other clients’ horses. Disposable booties and providing disinfectant solution are things that are useful to have available for anyone coming onto the property.
This information is not comprehensive, but can serve as a preliminary guide to helping rescuers take the needed precautions when bringing a newly rescued equine onto their property. As much as everyone wants to save a horse, it is vitally important to keep other horses safe in the process.
These types of precautionary actions do entail cost, so when you are considering rescuing an equine straight from auction or the a feedlot and having someone provide quarantine facilities for the horse, you should be prepared to ask questions about their safety procedures, and be prepared to pay for good safety and hygiene practices.
Thanks to: Saving Horses, Inc. in California, and Auction Horses in Washington for practical advice.
Other sources of information: http://www.chrb.ca.gov/misc_docs/biosecurity_2011.pdf and http://www.thehorse.com/articles/27924/creating-a-horse-quarantine