Horse & Rider
Quick tip: Cleaning alone can eliminate as much as 90% of bacteria from surfaces. Effective cleaning may be even more important than applying a disinfectant!
How to Disinfect a Stall
If a sick horse leaves your barn, you need to effectively clean and disinfect his stall before allowing any other horse to enter. Also follow these steps before moving your horse into a strange stall at a horse show, horse hotel, or other off-site facility.
Step 1. Clean out the stall. Remove from the stall all feed, bedding, and equipment, such as water buckets and feeders. If you plan to return this equipment to the stall, set it aside to disinfect separately before doing so.
Step 2. Scrub the walls. Wet the walls from top to bottom, then thoroughly scrub them with a detergent, such as Tide. This will help loosen organic matter and debris, and will emulsify fats to make them easier to rinse away.
Step 3. Allow walls to dry. This is a critical step. Any moisture left behind will dilute the disinfectant you’ll apply next, rendering it less effective.
Step 4. Disinfect. Thoroughly spray all surface areas with an effective disinfectant. Lysol is a good choice if the walls are particularly manure-stained; it’s more effective in the face of organic material than other products. Bleach is a good alternative if the surfaces are very clean. The recommended dilution ratio is between 1:10 (1.5 cups of bleach per gallon of water) and 1:100 (0.25 cups of bleach per gallon of water).
Step 5. Clean buckets and feeders. Thoroughly clean and disinfect water buckets and feeders before returning them to the stall. Soak in bleach (diluted in the same ratio as in Step 4, above) or a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution for 5 minutes.
How to Wash Your Hands (Properly!)
Studies leave no doubt that handwashing is one of the most important steps you can take to help prevent the spread of disease. In fact, estimates say that up to 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch. Follow these steps anytime you have to handle a sick horse.
Step 1. Wet your hands. Wet your hands under running water. Any temperature will do. Studies show that there’s no benefit to washing with warm water over cold. In fact, warm water is more likely to irritate your skin, especially if you hand wash frequently.
Step 2. Lather your hands. Lather all surfaces of your hands and under your nails with soap. Studies show that there’s no additional benefit to washing hands with antibacterial soaps, so any soap will do.
Step 3. Scrub your hands. Scrub for at least 20 seconds. The Center for Disease Control recommends singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice while scrubbing.
Step 4. Rinse your hands. Rinse your hands under clean, running water. Don’t rinse in standing water, or you’ll risk recontaminating your hands.
Step 5. Dry your hands. Dry your hands with a clean towel, or allow them to air dry completely. Estimates say that wet hands are 1,000 times more likely to transmit bacteria than dry ones.
How to Set Up a Footbath
If an infectious disease strikes your barn, one of the first recommendations you’re likely to hear is to set up a footbath outside of every sick horse’s stall, especially for diseases involving diarrhea or draining abscesses. Properly setting up and using a footbath will reduce or eliminate spread of disease-causing organisms on your boots or shoes. Here’s what to do.
Step 1. Situate the tub. Place a flat rubber or plastic feed tub on a level surface just outside the sick horse’s stall. Line the inside of the tub with a circular piece of synthetic turf. Place a long-handled scrub brush nearby.
Step 2. Dilute the solution. A proper dilution of Lysol (2.5 tablespoons of Lysol concentrate per gallon of water) is the best disinfectant option for a footbath, because organic material is an inevitable contaminant.
Step 3. Fill the tub. Fill the tub with the disinfectant solution to a level that will completely cover the bottom of a pair of boots or shoes; two to three inches deep is ideal.
Step 4. Brush off organic material. Every time you leave the stall, brush off as much organic material (bedding, feed, and manure) as possible from the soles and sides of your boots or shoes.
Step 5. Step into the footbath.
Step into the footbath, and wipe the bottoms of your feet on the rough synthetic turf to remove remaining organic debris. When it comes to disinfecting, the longer you can stand there, the better. While no one is likely to stand in a footbath for a full 10 minutes, that’s the amount of contact time recommended for best results.
Step 6. Change the disinfectant. Keep the disinfectant fresh and uncontaminated to maintain the footbath’s effectiveness. Change the disinfectant at least once per day. If you notice a lot of accumulated organic material, change the disinfectant more frequently.