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What vaccines does your horse need?

A veterinarian recommends a core of vaccines for all horses and additional vaccines for horses at higher risk.

Curt Arens

February 1, 2023

2 Min Read
Rancher saddling a horse
KEEPING THEM WORKING: Ranch horses are key parts of the operation, so keeping them on a regular vaccination schedule is all part of keeping them healthy and working all year long. Curt Arens

Ranch horses and roping horses are important aspects of working farms and ranches. Keeping those horses in good health, even as they enter middle age, is crucial for many producers who rely on them. That’s why implementing a solid and regular vaccination program is so important.

Veterinarian Michael Black and his colleagues at Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic in Omaha recommend a group of core vaccines for all horses — and a secondary grouping of vaccines for horses that could be at a higher risk of disease exposure, including those used for performance, sport, rodeo or show competitions outside the local area or state.

“Most working ranch horses are middle-aged, maybe over 8 years old into their late teens, and they are usually not at super high risk,” Black says. “They might be used for weekend roping events in the local area, competing with horses from other area ranches and horses that are of about the same age. That’s different from those taking their horses to large roping events, maybe out of state, with an accumulation of other horses from outside the region.”

Vaccinations

No matter which risk category your horses are in, a specific set of core vaccines is recommended by Nebraska Equine veterinarians. These vaccines, which are most often administered as 5-way or EWT vaccines, would include:

  • eastern and western equine encephalomyelitis (sleeping sickness)

  • tetanus toxoid

  • West Nile

  • rabies

For horses that are exposed to more outside-the-area horses and are in the higher risk category, Nebraska Equine recommends the following additional vaccines:

  • influenza (flu)

  • rhinopneumonitis (respiratory EHV1 and EHV4)

  • strangles

No matter which risk section the horse is in, the recommendation is for these vaccines to be administered in the spring — March, April or May — each year. After the initial spring vaccination, the influenza and rhinopneumonitis vaccines would generally be administered at four- to six-month intervals, so they would be given again in the fall, and in some circumstances, in the winter, depending on the product and the exposure risk of individual horses.

The strangles vaccine is risk-based, as well, and given intranasal for protection against Streptococcus equi.

Veterinarians at Nebraska Equine note that it is difficult to come up with a comprehensive vaccine protocol for all horses. These recommendations are made as a general guide, but horse owners need to consult their own equine veterinarian and establish a vaccination program with their advice to offer the horses in your operation the best possible protection program.

Learn more at nebraskaequine.com.

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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