Vaccines are the first line of defense against disease. They are not a guarantee your horse won’t get sick, but they reduce his risk and can lessen the severity of a disease. Knowing which vaccines to give and when can be overwhelming. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) keeps equine veterinarians up-to-date on medical and surgical information, including for recommendations on core  and risk-based Vaccinations.

Core Vaccines

These vaccines are deemed essential for all horses to receive annually no matter the horse’s age, breed, gender or geographical location.

  • Eastern and Western encephalomyelitis
  • West Nile virus
  • Tetanus
  • Rabies

Risk-Based Vaccines

These vaccinations are given for specific reasons due to increased risk based on age, breed, gender, activity and/or geographical locale. These include:

  • Equine influenza
  • Equine herpesvirus (rhinopneumonitis)
  • Strangles (Streptococcus equi)
  • Equine viral arteritis (EVA)
  • Potomac horse fever (PHF)
  • Leptospirosis
  • Anthrax
  • Botulism
  • Rattlesnake bite
  • Rotaviral diarrhea

Depending on the incidence of disease outbreak in your local area, your horse may need one or more of these risk-based vaccines. Some are intended solely for in particular uses, such as breeding animals (EVA), or foals who have specific vulnerabilities (botulism, Rotavirus). Others are given to mitigate a disease outbreak in the local area (strangles, leptospirosis, PHF and anthrax).

Respiratory virus vaccines are recommended for horses that travel and/or compete because they are exposed to large numbers of horses from all over. In addition, competition horses have an overlay of stress that affects the immune system, rendering them more susceptible to acquiring disease. To mitigate the risk of a potential respiratory viral outbreak, United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) now requires immunization of all horses for influenza and herpesvirus within six months of participation in USEF shows. For decades, the Federation International Equestrian (FEI) has required influenza boosters every six months for equine competitors at FEI events.

Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines will  best curtail infectious disease issues for your horse. Many manufacturers produce a variety of safe and effective vaccine options. Safety and efficacy studies are required by the government before licensing to ensure the highest degree of immune protection and the best safety protocols in administration.