Biosecurity at Equine Events: Event Committee Guidelines

Western Saddle


Equine events have the potential for the perfect storm of equine disease spread. Horse’s immune systems are stressed by travel and competition, horses are comingled in close quarters, and various bacteria and viruses are brought from different locations. Small, local shows will pose a different threat for disease spread than a large, regional, or national show where horses travel from many areas. However, comingling horses at any point provides an opportunity for disease spread. Preventing the perfect storm from occurring at equine events begins before the event starts with the planning and event committee.

Each equine event is unique, and the structure of the planning and event committee will look different. Generally, this committee is comprised of individuals ranging from volunteers to facility managers to county commissioners. These committees will serve many roles, but the event committee as a whole should evaluate the risk potential of their event and determine their biosecurity policies.

Specific roles must be identified within the committee to ensure that events are planned and executed smoothly and efficiently. To ensure the health and safety of human and equine participants, identifying three committee members as a veterinarian, safety officer, and stall manager is essential. These three roles are crucial to the development and implementation of the biosecurity policy, and these individuals should participate in the planning process of the event. Larger events may have several individuals serving in each of these roles, and smaller events may combine tasks. The following explains key roles and responsibilities about biosecurity.

Key Biosecurity Roles


Girl riding a horseThe veterinarian accomplishes the following responsibilities.

  • Participate in Event Committee. The veterinarian aids the event committee in setting the health entry requirements for horses, designing layout for check-in, and identifying isolation areas. The veterinarian will know local disease status and state import requirements.
  • Provide Training. The veterinarian provides training on how to recognize signs of equine disease to both the safety officer and stall manager.
  • Remain On-Call. The veterinarian is available for emergency on-call visits throughout the entirety of the equine event. Contact information should be posted and visible for all participants.
  • Evaluate Equine Illness. Should a horse become ill with a potentially contagious disease during the event, the veterinarian is in charge of isolation, diagnosis, and treatment of the horse. If the disease is a reportable disease, the veterinarian should be aware of all state protocols for reporting, isolation, and quarantine, if necessary. The veterinarian and the event committee assess the risk of exposure to other horses and take appropriate steps.

Safety Officer

The safety officer manages the following responsibilities.

  • Participate in Event Committee. The safety officer aids the show committee in discussing the requirements for horses to come to the event, becoming familiar with facility layout, and designating an isolation area.
  • Schedule Veterinarian. Ensure that a licensed veterinarian has been consulted about the event and that a veterinarian has agreed to be on-call to provide consultation and services as needed.
  • Provide Equine Check-in. The safety officer orients individuals at checkpoints regarding check-in protocols.
  • Patrol Grounds. During the show, the safety officer actively patrols the grounds, watching for equine illness or lameness, safety hazards, and unsafe behavior. The safety officer has the authority to stop any activity immediately that is deemed unsafe either in or out of the show arena. The show committee can discuss activities of concern not requiring immediate attention to determine the best course of action.
  • Officiate as Point-of-Contact. The safety officer is the person in charge that others bring safety concerns to (i.e., lame horses, unsafe tack, and unsafe equine behavior). 

Stall Manager

The stall manager performs the following responsibilities.

  • Ensure that stalls are clean before the event.
  • Establish policies involving cleanliness and keeping aisles open and free of clutter.
  • Allow horse in stalls only once they have completed entry requirements.
  • Assign stalls strategically to allow stalls nearby one another for groups traveling together.
  • Retain available emergency contact information for all horses at the event.
  • Patrol stalls during the event to ensure compliance with biosecurity policies.

Event Policies

Identifying individuals to fill these roles is only the first step in forming a safe event. Although event planners are often limited by available facilities, it’s important to become familiar with the different options and understand ways to limit biosecurity risks. Below are some things to consider during the planning phase of equine events.

Facility Layout

facility layoutExamine the layout of the facility with the following three key areas.

  • Check-in Point. A check-in point should be marked. This point should accommodate the flow of traffic and be accessible for horse trailers. Multiple people, familiar with required documentation and check-in procedures, should staff the check-in point. Ideally, the check-in point allows for the control of incoming traffic, and staff give special attention to prepare for high volume times to prevent long waits.
  • Stall Areas. Separate stall areas from the show areas. Decreasing spectator foot traffic through stall areas is beneficial. If possible, stalls that are easily disinfected and allow for solid barriers between horse are best.
  • Isolation Area. Use an isolation area if a horse exhibits clinical signs consistent with a contagious disease. The isolation area is required to be at least 30 feet away from any other activity at the event and should be accessible for horse trailers. This area should be out of the normal flow of traffic. Should the isolation area become occupied by a sick horse, implement additional biosecurity precautions at the discretion of the attending veterinarian in conjunction with the show committee. 

 Check-In Documentation

Horse at trailerThe main goal of check-in is to ensure that horses entering the event are healthy and free of contagious disease. The following practices will aid in keeping disease out.

  • Vaccination. Require proof of vaccination for equine herpesvirus (EHV) -1 and 4 (rhinopneumonitis) and equine influenza virus within six months of the event.
  • Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI). A veterinary inspection should take place a maximum of five days before the start of the event. During the face of an outbreak, it may be beneficial to have a veterinary inspection at the time of check-in.
  • Rectal Temperature Checks. Participants should provide proof of rectal temperature checks of the horse for at least three days before the event, including the morning of the event.
  • Exhibitor Screening. Require verbal confirmation that each horse has been screened by the exhibitor for the following symptoms before initiating travel to attend the horse show: nasal discharge, elevated rectal temperature, coughing, difficulty breathing, ADR (“Ain’t Doin’ Right”), and/or diarrhea.

Stall Cleanliness

Each facility will have its policy and procedures for cleaning stalls. Although many facilities will clean stalls between events, it is the responsibility of the horse owner to ensure that their stall is clean and disinfected before they put their horse in. Also, some events require stall cleaning after a horse is removed and goes home. Proper stall cleaning between horses should include the following steps:

  • Remove all organic material (manure and bedding) from stall floors and walls.
  • Wash walls and floor with antibacterial soap and rinse with water.
  • Allow drying.
  • Spray stall floors and walls with disinfectant. Take care to follow all label application instructions for disinfectants (concentration and contact times).
  • Apply special precautions for an isolation stall.

Limiting Human-to-Horse Contact 

People can be a source of disease spread. Limit human-to-horse contact by doing the following:

  • Ask show officials required to contact multiple horses to practice proper handwashing and sanitizing procedures between each horse.
  • Require officials checking bits or tattoos to refrain from touching each animal and to ask the rider or groom to open the horse’s mouth.
  • Prohibit visitors from feeding horses at the event.
  • Discourage or prohibit visitors from touching horses.
  • Encourage visitors to wash hands or use hand sanitizer before and after contact with each horse if they are allowed to touch horses.

Pet Policy

Dogs are often brought to equine events and allowed to move freely. These dogs are a danger to horses and riders and may be responsible for carrying disease-causing agents from one area to another. The following policies may be considered:

  • Prohibit dogs from entry onto the premises.
  • Restrict dogs to on-leash only if they are allowed on the premises.
  • Provide instructions to event staff on how to handle situations with off-leash or free-roaming dogs, or those found in restricted areas.

Horses lined up



Karl Hoopes, Utah State Equine Extension Specialist, DVM; Jessie Hadfield, Utah 4-H Animal Science Specialist; Megan Hendrickson, Utah 4-H English Horse Program Coordinator

Karl Hoopes

Karl Hoopes

Equine Specialist


Phone: 435-535-5140
Jessie Hadfield

Jessie Hadfield

Professional Practice Extension Assistant Professor | Agriculture & Animal Science

Youth Programs Dept

Phone: (435) 623-3450
Office Location: AGRS 125

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