A vaccination is an injection (with a sterile syringe and needle) of bacteria or viruses that cause a horse to build immunity to a specific illness. These organisms are inactivated or modified to avoid causing the disease themselves. Normally 2 or more doses are needed to start an adequate immune response.
Once the first and booster vaccine are done, then the protective antibodies in the blood stand guard against the development of those diseases. Over time, these antibodies gradually decline, so a booster shot is needed at regular intervals. This varies with different vaccines.
If you are in doubt ask your vet, trainer or stable manager about when and which vaccinations to have administered to your pony.
- African Horse Sickness – once a year
- Equine influenza – twice a year
Highly recommended vaccines:
- Tetanus – once a year. A booster can be given with any injury or puncture wound.
On advice of a vet:
- Strangles – once a year
- Rabies – once a year
- Equine encephalosis virus (EEV) – once a year
Whether you compete or not, part of being a responsible horse owner is to make sure that your horse is properly vaccinated each year. You do this to:
- Give your pony the best protection possible.
- Help prevent the spread of disease.
- Reduce the severity if your pony does catch a disease.
- Subcutaneous is an injection underneath the skin. This is used for the AHS vaccine.
- Intramuscular is an injection directly into the muscle. This is used for influenza and tetanus.
- Intranasal is an injection used for the strangles vaccine, where the injection is given into the underside of the upper lip.
Vaccines should never be administered to ponies if you think that they have been exposed to the disease. Their immune system could already be fighting an infection and injecting them at that time could lead to a serious case of the disease due to a weakened immune system.
With ‘natural’ horsemanship developing a greater following, some people feel that vaccinating too much can be as bad as not vaccinating properly or enough. African Horse Sickness, equine influenza and tetanus are absolute must-haves. In fact if you compete, you will be unable to compete without having AHS and influenza administered by your vet.
The other vaccines are recommended if you are in an area or yard where a certain problem is more likely, for example rabies or strangles.
Keep a full record of your pony’s vaccination history in his passport.
Text and photography: Mandy Schröder
The full story appeared in the November 2014 issue of HQPony magazine. For great subscription offers visitCoolmags.