Why handwashing around Horses is so important!
Why handwashing aroundHorses is so Important
Believe it or believe it not, hand washing is a skill. It’s not just a matter of flicking yourskin under the tap for a few seconds, and hoping for the best. Washing yourhands properly is monumental in preventing the spread of disease – in fact, according to the World HealthOrganization, hand hygiene is one of the best ways of stopping thespread of diseases.
This applies to horses as much as it does to humans. We areconstantly touching our horses in all situations, including leading, grooming,checking and riding them. Not only can we transmit diseases to horses throughour hands, but it is also possible to pick up certain conditions from directcontact with horses, a process known as zoonosis. A common example is ringworm.
Contagious diseases are easily transmitted between horses bytouch; therefore, if you handle more than one horse you could unwittingly bespreading disease around. Horses can be carriers of diseases without showing anysymptoms; at this point, it is easy for the disease to be passed from one horseto another unknowingly.
When to hand-wash
Although regular handwashing is recommended, certainsituations increase the risk of the spread of disease, and require particularattention. These include:
· Visits byequestrian practitioners. Think about all the people who visit your yard whohave been to other equestrian establishments before attending your horse. Theseinclude the vet, the farrier, the dentist, chiropractor, saddle fitter, andinstructor – to name a few. Mostpractitioner will already follow a hand washing procedure, but never be afraidto ask any visitors to wash before handling your horses!
· Newhorse. A new horse arriving on the yard has been subject to many differenthandlers, as well as being exposed to many different horses. Always wash yourhands before and after handling him.
· Usinghorse medications. Gloves are always recommended when dealing with anymedication, but it is also important to wash hands immediately after anycontact. Progesterone or sedative based products can be absorbed through humanskin if not washed off immediately.
· Yardduties. Looking after horses involves a lot of dirty work, such as muckingout, etc., so it is important to keep hands scrupulously clean to prevent anyillnesses occurring. There is also a small risk of coming into contact withrats, who carry Weils Disease (Leptospirosis), so it is crucial to wash yourhands thoroughly.
Minimising the risk
As previously hinted at, one of the easiest ways to minimizethe risk of spread of disease is by following a regular and thorough handwashing regime. Wash your hands under running water (preferably warm water fora more pleasant and effective experience) using plenty of soap. Make sure you soapyour wrists and between your fingers, and really rub it in well for a couple ofminutes.
When you rinse, keep rubbing, and make sure you dry offthoroughly – preferably not on a dirtytowel that is harbouring further unknown germs.
Soap is generally adequate, but if there is a known risk,such as any prevalent diseases such as strangles, a disinfectant based wash isrecommended. You can also use disinfectant hand sanitisers, similar to those seen inhospitals, and attach them in strategic positions. These are particularly goodfor visitors such as farriers, as they are quick, easy and accessible for themto use.
Following good practices such as regular hand washing is asimple strategy that can make a significant difference in the battle againstthe spread of disease. Start making it part of your routine today.