Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Horse Venue Biosecurity Workbook

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A self-evaluation guide for managers of all horse venues showgrounds, riding and pony club venues, agistment properties and horse events








The purpose of this workbook is to assist venue owners and managers to establish a set of biosecurity measures applicable to their venue, which can easily be implemented over time to ensure horses are protected from disease and pests. The workbook was produced so a venue holding just one horse, or a racing complex holding hundreds, could design and implement measures appropriate for their particular venue, while also addressing individual management and site issues. Continue reading

What is a Horse Venue?

Horse venues can take many forms.  They range from single horse paddocks to stables housing large numbers of horses – pony club event grounds to large racing tracks – permanent fixtures to highly mobile events.  The same principles apply to minimise disease incursion and spread, regardless of size or location.  How these principles are implemented will vary depending on individual site requirements, circumstances and management strategies.

Examples of horse venues include:

  • horse paddocks
  • show grounds
  • riding schools
  • stables (owned or agistment)
  • pony clubs
  • stables (competition and racing)
  • breeding operation
  • racing facilities
  • horse veterinary centres
  • training facility
  • tourism stays
  • riding centres
  • event venues
  • private or public property



Promoting the implementation of farm biosecurity measures is the responsibility of each horse sector.  This is in line with Clause 14 of the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA) where “each industry will promote improvements”.

The development of sector specific practices is fundamental to the success of improved biosecurity for all horse venues.  It is acknowledged that each venue will have a different range of biosecurity threats, challenges and operating environments, which should be addressed with the relevant approaches identified in the workbook.

The Horse Venue Biosecurity Workbook is available as a resource for the education of staff and the development of training and awareness programs. By implementing the measures outlined in the workbook, horse venue managers will reduce the likelihood of introducing and spreading disease onto the venue they manage – reducing the industry’s liability under the EADRA, and protecting their livelihood.

Horse Venue Biosecurity


  • To prevent the introduction of infectious disease agents to horses.
  • To prevent the spread of disease agents from an infected area to an uninfected area.
  • To minimise the incidence and spread of disease agents of public health significance.

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Biosecurity should be an integral part of the management of any horse venue.  It is about managing risk to meet the objectives stated above.  Biosecurity refers to the measures taken to prevent, or control, the introduction and spread of infectious agents to horses.  Such diseases, whether clinical or subclinical, significantly reduce the productivity, profitability and long-term financial viability of a horse venue. 

Biosecurity measures are venue specific, and can vary greatly depending on factors like site design, management, cost of implementation and climate.  As such, we use the acronym PECCS to help assess what measures might be appropriate:

Practical – how practical is the measure?

Effective – how effective is the measure?

Cost – how much will the measure cost to implement?

Capability – does the venue have the capacity and staff capability to implement the measure?

Sustainable – is the measure sustainable?

Everyone that visits, works at, or enters a horse venue – such as horse owners, competitors, jockeys, stable hands, trainers, farriers, vets or spectators –  must follow the directions of the manager in order to ensure biosecurity measures are implemented properly.  Everyone is responsible for their actions. 

Biosecurity is like any other insurance policy – a prudent investment.



Major Routes for Disease and Pathogen Transmission

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  • Transfer of horses from venue-to-venue
  • Dead animal disposal

Other Animals

  • Domestic animals – including other livestock and pets

  • Flying foxes

  • Birds – wild and domestic


  • Personnel and family members living on-site

  • Contractors, maintenance personnel, neighbours, servicepersons and visitors

  • Disease can be carried on hands, boots, clothing, hair and even in the respiratory tract

Vehicles & Equipment

  • Tack

  • Feeding and watering equipment

  • Rugs

  • Disease can be carried on tyres, etc.

  • Horse floats/trucks that have multiple pick-ups


  • Transmission as an aerosol or dust

Feed & Water

  • Feed can be contaminated by the raw materials used during, post-production and transport, or by exposure to rodents and pests on the property.  Bacteria and mould in poor quality or damaged feed may also be a concern.

  • Water supplies can become contaminated with faeces from contact with the same, or other, species.

Pests & Weeds

  • Poisonous plants

  • Feral animals

  • Rodents – including rats and mice

  • Insects  


The Need to Develop a Horse Venue Biosecurity Plan

A venue that has undertaken a risk assessment of threats to horse health (either a self-assessment or using the services of a third-party) will be better able to recognise potential risks of disease spread. Such a venue will be in a better position to implement sound management practices to prevent disease spread. Good practices will not only help protect the horses on your venue, but also the horses on venues you visit. Continue reading

In the course of the normal business of a horse venue, people – such as owners, staff, club members, spectators, contractors and farriers – as well as other animals, move on and off the venue. Each movement is a potential risk for disease agents to enter, circulate within, or leave a venue. Venue managers have a responsibility to assist in minimising the potential for every day movements to spread disease agents within or outside the venue.

A quick checklist to see if your venue poses a horse health risk

High Risk

Medium Risk

Low Risk

  • Visitors go from venue-to-venue as part of their job – such as farriers, vets, horse dentists, trucks.
  • Horses frequently race, compete or visit studs
  • Horses are not uniquely identified.
  • Records are not kept of individual or group horse movements.
  • Venue managers do not implement or advocate horse health (biosecurity) principles.
  • Occasionally you, or visitors, travel from venue-to-venue.


  • Horses are not always identified.
  • Biosecurity practices are in place, but applied inconsistently.
  • Venue managers are aware of horse health practices (biosecurity), but not sure how to change practices.
  • You, and visitors to your venue, do not go from venue-to-venue.


  • Horses rarely leave the property.
  • Horses are uniquely identified.
  • Records are kept of all horse movements²[1].
  • Venue managers understand practices and promote horse health (biosecurity) practices.


Action Plan for Suspected Emergency Animal Diseases

In the event of an emergency animal disease outbreak or serious endemic disease, more stringent practices will need to be implemented on-farm.  Respective state and territory governments will implement standard operating procedures that are in line with the AUSVETPLAN disease strategy.

Each venue manager should establish and document clear guidelines regarding the circumstances when an emergency animal disease alert should be raised, and who must be informed.  For example, when experiencing an unusual increase in death, illness or drop in production.  An example of an Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Action Plan can be found in the Biosecurity Tool Box section of this workbook.

Getting Ready to Develop a Horse Venue Biosecurity Plan

The biosecurity workbook has been designed to take horse venue managers through a series of questions relating to how the venue is currently operating. A range of ‘tips’ have also been provided to assist with informed decision-making. 

Before starting, it will be useful (but not essential) to have:

  1. An aerial map of the venue, showing roads, entrances/exits and watercourses (try Google Maps).
  2. A plastic overlay to cover the map, if it is not laminated, and non-permanent whiteboard markers.
  3. Any existing documentation relating to the operations of the venue.

It is important to involve family members, committee, club members, staff, agistees or frequent visitors in preparing your Horse Venue Biosecurity Plan, where possible. The plan is more likely to have a high-level of uptake if ownership is shared among key people

How to Use the Workbook

Step One:                    To get started – set your goals. Clearly state what you aim to achieve – for example, reducing the disease risk for your horses.  Then work your way through each section of this resource tool.  For each topic, select the statement that best reflects current management practices.

Step Two:                    Summarise your results in the ‘Summary of Results Checklist’. 

Step Three:                  Rank the Actions to be taken to improve horse practices on your venue.  Those marked ‘haven’t thought about it’ or ‘just beginning’ should receive the most consideration when developing your action planThis will assist you to better manage and control health risks at your horse venue.  An Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Action Plan Template, citing examples, is included as a guide.


Two practical examples of self-assessment are provided below to help you to develop a personalised action plan. Other resources in the workbook include an Action Plan template, an Emergency Disease Action Plan, Visitor Register, Visitor Risk Assessment checklist, Movement Records sheet and Husbandry Records sheet.


[1] Movements include within a property boundary, for example, brood mare herds on larger studs.