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Vaccines are an essential part of maintaining a healthy, happy horse. Vaccines are meant to create immunity against specific diseases. By vaccinating your horse for these diseases, you reduce the risk of the horse getting sick, or if they happen to get sick, it will lessen the severity of the disease and likely will be less contagious. Vaccines are created with a weaker version of the specific disease and, when given to the horse, cause the body to form antibodies to help protect the horse from the disease.

Which Vaccines Are Available for My Horse?

Horse vaccines are categorized by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) as either core vaccines or risk-based vaccines. Core vaccines are considered essential vaccines that every horse, no matter their lifestyle or risk, should be vaccinated against because they pose a risk to every horse and are potentially fatal. Risk-based vaccines are vaccines that should be considered and discussed with your veterinarian based on your horse's unique risk, geological location, and lifestyle.  

Core Vaccines:

  • Eastern equine encephalitis

  • Western equine encephalitis 

  • Rabies

  • Tetanus

  • West Nile virus

Risk-based Vaccines:

Horse Vaccination Schedule 

The following charts contain the recommended immunization schedules for adult horses after initial vaccination.

Core Vaccines

Disease

      Frequency

Notes

Eastern/Western Equine Encephalitis

Annual: Spring, prior to onset of vector season

Consider 6-month revaccination interval for high-risk situations and regions of increased occurrence.

Rabies

Annual

 

Tetanus

Annual

Booster at time of penetrating injury or prior to surgery if vaccine was given over 6 months previously.

West Nile Virus

Annual: Spring, prior to onset of mosquito season

 

 

Risk-based Vaccines 

Disease

Frequency

Notes

Anthrax

Annual

 

Botulism

Annual

 

Equine Herpesvirus (EHV)

Annual

 

Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA)

Annual

Prior to initial vaccination: stallions and any horses potentially intended for export should undergo serologic testing to confirm negative for antibodies to EVA. 

Influenza 

Annual if at low risk

 

Semi-annual for horses that will be in high risk for more than 6 months of the year 

Horses in high-risk lifestyles include hoses competing more than 6 months of the year or in boarding/training facilities. These horses should be vaccinated every 6 months.

Leptospiraosis

Annual

 

Potomac Horse Fever (PHF)

Semi-annual to Annual

Revaccination interval of every 3-4 months may be recommended for horses in endemic areas with high risk.

Rotavirus

Given to broodmares ONLY: 3 dose series during pregnancy

 

Snake Bite

Semiannual

Recommend for geologic areas of high risk, with venomous snakes.

Strangles (Streptococcus equi)

Semi-annual to Annual due to lifestyle risk

Horses in high-risk lifestyles include hoses competing more than 6 months of the year or in boarding/training facilities. These horses should be vaccinated every 6 months.

Horse Vaccination FAQs

Is there a better time of year to give vaccines?

Generally, vaccines are recommended to be given in the spring before riding season begins in order to give the horse the most protection. Some vaccines may require a booster in the fall, depending on the horse's lifestyle and risk level.  


Do show horses need additional vaccines?

Yes, horses that are being shown need to be given additional vaccines because they are at risk for other diseases, such as influenza and strangles, due to traveling and being exposed to new horses and facilities. 


 

References

 AAEP. Vaccination guidelines. 2020.

Featured Image: iStock.com/K Neville

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