Aqueos - Visitors to the Yard
Visitors to the yard
Article written by Dr Jessica Putnam BVMedSci(Hons) BVM BVS(Hons) MRCVS – 20th April 2022
Whether you have your own yard where you keep your own horses and ponies, you keep your horse or pony on livery, or you run a large livery or competition yard, there will always be visitors to the yard. It is worth considering what impact these visitors will have on the resident horses and ponies, from a biosecurity, well-being and safety point of view. Some visitors may need to attend on a regular basis, such as farriers, veterinary surgeons and physiotherapists. Other visitors may only visit once or twice a year, such as equine dental technicians or saddle fitters. Some individuals such as instructors, or feed companies who offer nutritional consultations, feeding advice and possible use of a portable weighbridge, may visit on an ad hoc basis.
Any visitor to the yard is a potential biosecurity risk, as it is likely that they have been dealing with other horses elsewhere prior to attending your yard. In order to protect your premises and the horses and ponies there, you should consider putting measures in place to reduce the risk of infectious disease being introduced onto the yard. For example, a foot bath and hand sanitiser at the entrance and exit points, and ideally hand-washing facilities. How strict you need to be with regards to biosecurity may depend on the type of yard you are running or keeping your horse or pony on. For example, yards with breeding stock (i.e. pregnant mares) may need to be particularly careful to avoid disease being introduced onto the yard to reduce abortion risk or complications during pregnancy or foaling.
Typically, if you have confirmed an outbreak of contagious disease, veterinary surgeons and paraprofessionals will avoid attending the yard unless absolutely necessary. However, diagnosing new cases or treating unwell horses or ponies may still be necessary, so veterinary surgeons are likely to require access to the yard in some cases. If more than one veterinary practice is involved encouraged in the care of horses and ponies in the yard, communication between practices should be to ensure that management of the outbreak is consistent yard-wide.
If you run a yard where the owners or riders of individual horses and ponies attend to their daily needs, you will need to decide whether you have set hours for when they are allowed to be in the yard, or whether you are happy for them to come and go as they please. There are advantages and disadvantages to having strict yard hours. You may find that you can keep the horses and ponies in a more structured routine, as it may, for example, mean they all get fed at a similar time in the morning, and they are also not disturbed in their stables after a certain time in the evening. However, strict hours can make certain times very busy on the yard and may result in people competing for facilities at these busy times. It may also become problematic if a horse or pony is unwell, and needs monitoring or checking regularly through the evening and overnight.
If you have electric gates, think about who you are happy to have the code for entry/exit. There is some value in letting your attending veterinary practices have this information so that in an emergency they can easily access the yard, without having to wait for someone to open to gates. Consider whether you can make it possible to have vehicle access to all parts of the yard for emergency situations, or in case you need to get a horse or pony loaded up urgently.
Depending on staffing levels, you may find it less disruptive to group routine veterinary care together for horses and ponies in the yard, so that they can for example be vaccinated on the same day – saving time and money. Some veterinary practices will offer reduced cost visits (or even free yard visits) for large numbers of horses or clients who club together – it can pay to get organised!
Ensure that your horse or pony is, as far as possible, likely to behave well for your vet. Veterinary surgeons appreciate that horses and ponies can be nervous when being treated, but teaching good manners on the ground is a favourable starting point for vet visits. If your horse or pony particularly dislikes any aspect of veterinary examination or treatment, consider desensitising exercises such as neck twitching to prepare for intramuscular injections, or raising their vein for intravenous injections.
There is never a truer saying than “no foot, no horse” and therefore farriers are fundamental to keeping your horse or pony on the road. It is worth making your farrier’s job as easy as possible to ensure that they want to keep coming to trim and/or shoe your horse or pony’s feet on a regular basis. Some top tips:
Equine dental technicians and veterinary surgeons performing your dental work for you will always appreciate a bucket of warm water and somewhere covered and sheltered to work – especially in the cold weather. Again, you may find it easier for horses and ponies to have their routine dentistry work done together where possible.
If an instructor is visiting your yard for an individual lesion, it is unlikely to be particularly disruptive to the rest of the yard. However, if an instructor is coming to teach at your arena/facilities and there will be other horses or ponies attending for lessons, you will need to think about how to minimise disruption for the rest of the yard – including minimising contact between visiting horses and ponies, with those normally on the yard. Designated parking for those attending may be beneficial, and it should be made clear which areas of the yard or facilities are available to those visiting.
Take home message
Ultimately, visitors to the yard are needed to keep horses and ponies happy and healthy, but it is important to recognise that they can pose a potential infection risk. It is therefore responsible to make provisions to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks in your yard through appropriate biosecurity measures.