Horse Welfare and Diseases

​​Disease prevention – everyday biosecurity for horse owners

    Everyday Biosecurity for Horse Owners   (439Kb)

Please read through the fact sheet on everyday horse biosecurity.  If your horse is "not their normal self" or is not well or eating/drinking/behaving as a horse normally should, that might be the first sign of a disease problem. This is important to bear in mind especially if your horse has travelled away to an event or has been in contact with a new horse from another area or has recently arrived from interstate.

Do call your vet if you suspect your horse is unwell. Be clear about any suspicions you have, especially if the horse is new and has recently arrived from Northern Australia. 

If you suspect your horse is not well, do not take your horse to a show or event, or on an outing, and risk spreading a problem to other horses and other horse owners.

We have a new colour poster that summarises the following important information.  Why not download it and put it up in your office or stable as a handy reference?

  Horse Biosecurity Poster   (481Kb)

Notifiable disease and the Law

Our primary concern, from a biosecurity point of view, is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases that could seriously affect parts of the horse industry – recreational horse community, equine sports, breeding, racing, and other horse industries. Know your general biosecurity duty.  There are some horse diseases that people can be susceptible to and so we want to prevent the occurrence of serious zoonotic disease. Notification of a biosecurity event is a legal requirement under the Biosecurity Act 2019.  There are three broad categories of infectious diseases: Exotic animal disease, Endemic animal disease, new and unusual or unknown diseases that are a biosecurity event and need to be notified by you. 

Each Australian State including Tasmania publishes lists of - 

Prohibited matter - Exotic animal diseases, and

Declared diseases - Endemic animal diseases.

The diseases on the lists are those which by their infectiousness and/or effects warrant a Government response to protect the industry or species involved. Your vet has been issued with the Lists.

Those who deliberately risk their own and other peoples' horses by not reporting suspicious disease or ignoring movement restrictions are liable for prosecution. If in doubt about any disease or movement regulation PLEASE ask your veterinarian or contact NRE Tas.

Important phone numbers

Exotic Disease Hotline (24 hrs) 1800 675 888 (if you suspect an exotic, new, unusual or unknown disease)

NRE Tas Enquiries 1300 368 550 (BH)

NRE Tas Horse Import Enquiries 03 6165 3777 (BH)

NRE Tas can also assist organisations develop contingency plans.

Equine herpes virus type 1

(EHV1) (abortigenic and neurological strains) - is a notifiable disease that is considered to occur in the Tasmanian horse population and abortion that is highly suspicious of EHV1 is reported from time to time.

EHV1 can be excreted by previously infected horses when they are stressed eg by transport or entering a new group. Care must be taken to keep introduced horses isolated from pregnant mares on your property. This includes not sharing water troughs, feed bins and other gear and not permitting over-the-fence contact. EHV1 can be easily spread by contact with aborted foetuses and associated materials so cleaning up after an abortion is a high priority.

Vaccination is available as an aid in the control of EHV1 abortion, however vaccine alone will not prevent abortions.

Your veterinarian should be consulted as a matter of urgency if you suspect EHV1 infection on your property so a management plan can be initiated as soon as possible to limit losses.

More detail is available from the NSW Department of Primary Industries webpage EHV1 A​bortion

Equine Herpes Virus type 1 (EH​​​V1) Fact Sheet (142 KB)

Hendra virus

The risk of Hendra virus in Tasmania is very low because we do not have flying foxes (the natural host of the Hendra virus) in Tasmania. If you are bringing a horse into Tasmania from (or back from) Queensland or New South Wales, the risk of bringing this disease in with your horse is also low.

As a precaution however, you should check the Hendra virus vaccination status of the horse and current situation for Hendra virus in the state from which the horse is originating. You should also follow the normal recommended biosecurity practice of keeping a close eye on your horse and keep it away from other horses for 2-3 weeks after the horse arrives.

If your horse is unwell during this period and you suspect Hendra virus infection is a possibility, stay away from that animal and consult your vet immediately. Make sure you tell your vet whether or not the horse has been vaccinated for Hendra virus.  Also report your suspicions via the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline 1800 675 888.

Further reading:

Hendra Virus - General In​formation​ (Biosecurity Queensland)

Equine Influenza

 The outbreak of Equine Influenza on mainland Australia went from August 2007 until the last of the EI-related restrictions that were lifted on 1 July 2008. However, there are many important lessons to be learned from the outbreak. They include:

  • Have at least some basic biosecurity measures on your property - in particular anyone handling your horse should wash their hands and clean their equipment before doing so;
  • If taking your horse to an event, you must ensure your horse is healthy;
  • Encourage the organisers of events to collect and hold basic tracing information (at least owners' names and addresses and contact details, the horse's identification and its location after the event). This information would be most helpful if a disease were detected after the event.

DPI Victoria has produced an excellent checklist to help owners do a basic horse health check. It explains how you can check the vital signs and what you will find with a normal, healthy horse. You are encouraged to check your horse regularly and contact your vet if you come across anything that is not normal.

Horse welfare

Guidelines covering issues such as diet, exercise, housing, foot and dental care and other routine husbandry practices, training and transport, have been endorsed by the Tasmanian Government. Horse owners and people thinking about becoming a horse owner are encouraged to download these guidelines.

  Horse Welfare Guidelines   (430Kb)

Horse body condition ("level of fatness, or thinness") is the most reliable indication of the suitability of a horse's diet. If a horse is too fat or too thin the diet and level of exercise need to be adjusted accordingly. In some cases it may be worthwhile consulting your vet in case there is a health issue that is part of the reason as to why the horse is too fat or too thin.  This information can help you to  estimate your horse's condition. 

  Body Condition Score for Horses   (104Kb)

Horses and bushfire

Preparation is the key to survival for you and your horses. Tasmanian Trail Riders Inc. has produced a series of Equine Emergency Planning fact sheets for horse-owners which provide excellent information, templates and checklists for being prepared for bushfires or other emergencies. Horse-owners are advised to view or download them below and act on the advice they contain:

Colour photograph showing two foals at play - jumping in air. 

Further information

For equine event organisers, Horse Venue Biosecurity Workbook available at the Farm Biosecurity website assists managers of horse venues (showgrounds, riding and pony club venues, agistment properties and horse events) to establish biosecurity measures and gives outlines for contingency plans that can be put in place in case an emergency disease is suspected.