Two horses

Spread the word not the germs: biosecurity in the Ontario horse racing industry

In 2013, a devastating outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus One caused four confirmed cases in Thoroughbred and Standardbred horses and three confirmed deaths.

The development reinforced Equine Guelph’s sense that the Ontario horse racing industry – one filled with high-value animals and frequent movement – was in need of further education on biosecurity and infectious disease prevention.

Accessing funding through the Agricultural Adaptation Council, Equine Guelph developed and delivered ‘BIOSECURITY – Spread the word not the germs.’  The first-of-its-kind campaign targeted infectious diseases in the Ontario horse racing industry. The initiative changed the equine industry’s approach to biosecurity and delivered lasting resources still used today.

In order to reach such a broad community, Equine Guelph used a peer-to-peer educational approach to bring the industry together.

In April 2015, Equine Guelph started by educating horse racing officials. Ontario Racing Commission investigators, judges and stewards received training on biosecurity, arming the officials with the resources needed to visit all 10 Ontario race tracks in the spring and summer of 2015 to spread the word on biosecurity. On their visits, officials discussed how to improve biosecurity and provided an assortment of training materials.

The biosecurity campaign is more than just a communications success story; it created tangible resources for the equine industry, both racing and non-racing. The training content used has been added to Equine Guelph’s equine biosecurity two-week online eWorkshop and has been modified and distributed to a general equine audience across Canada.

The project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.