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Veterinarians remind producers of the importance of horse vaccination programs

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

From dragging calves to the branding fire under a hot, summer sun; sorting off heavies in spring snow flurries; gathering pairs in the golden glow of fall and pulling a hay wagon across hard-packed snow during winter months – among a long list of other things – ranch horses are imperative for working farms and ranches across the U.S. 

Ensuring these diverse and helpful athletes are in good health is crucial, and veterinarians at the Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic in Omaha, Neb., including Dr. Michael Black, Dr. Michael Thomassen, Dr. Kimberly Conover and Dr. Amy Cook, remind producers of the importance of implementing a ranch horse vaccination program. 

Core vaccinations

In a Nebraska Equine pamphlet, titled “Vaccination guidelines for adult horses,” veterinarians recommend horse owners use a few core vaccines for all of their horses, in addition to some secondary vaccines for specific horses at higher risk of disease exposure.

“Ranch horses should be given a specific set of core vaccines, regardless of which risk category they fall under,” say Black, Thomassen, Conover and Cook.

They note core vaccines include eastern and western equine encephalomyelitis (EWT), also known as sleeping sickness; tetanus toxoid; West Nile and rabies. 

The veterinarians also note these vaccines are most often administered as five-way or EWT vaccines in the spring every year.

Secondary vaccinations

For horses at higher risk of disease exposure, such as horses used off of the operation for performances, sport, rodeo, show competitions or even to help on neighboring farms and ranches, Nebraska Equine veterinarians recommend adding additional vaccines to a vaccination program.

These include vaccines for influenza, rhinopneumonitis and strangles.

“After spring vaccinations, variations between different groups of horses arise based on disease exposure risks,” they explain. 

Following the initial vaccinations given in the spring, Black, Thomassen, Conover and Cook explain influenza and rhinopneumonitis vaccines should be administered in four- to six-month intervals. 

This means, after given once in the spring, they would also need to be administered in the fall, and in some circumstances, during the winter, depending on the product and the risk of exposure for individual horses. 

“In addition to the above core vaccines, it is highly recommended to give an intranasal strangles vaccine on an annual basis for protection against Streptococcus equi,” notes the veterinarians at Nebraska Equine. “Again, vaccinating for strangles is based on risk of exposure for individual horses.”

Consulting a veterinarian

With these recommendations in mind, the veterinarians at Nebraska Equine mention the difficulty of designing a comprehensive vaccination program for all horses.

“These recommendations are intended to be used as a general guideline,” they note. “It is wise for producers to consult with their own veterinarians while developing a vaccination schedule for their specific operation.” 

“Veterinarians have a good understanding of what a horse needs for optimum protection, and their knowledge of the different vaccines available will ultimately offer horses better immunity and protection,” they continue.

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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