It may be tempting to skimp on vaccines to save a few dollars, especially if your horses don’t leave your  property. However trying to save a few bucks in the short run could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in treatment should your horse get sick. A proper vaccination program takes into account your herd’s situation, time of year and geographic location.

David Wilson, DVM, from the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine lists the following as factors to consider when evaluating risk of exposure to various diseases: age, type, gender, number, use and stocking density of horses; season of the year; environmental conditions; and the farm’s facilities, management practices and geographic location.

If possible, arrange for all horses in the herd to receive their immunizations at the same time. This allows for more efficient management, easier record keeping and lower farm call expenses.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) divides vaccinations into two categories: core vaccinations and risk-based vaccinations. Core vaccinations “protect against diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, required by law, virulent/highly infectious, and/or those posing a risk of severe disease. Core vaccines have clearly demonstrated efficacy and safety and thus exhibit a high enough level of patient benefit and low enough level of risk to justify their use in all equids.” The core vaccines protect horses against Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE), rabies, tetanus, and West Nile Virus (WNV).

The timing of vaccines that protect against vector borne diseases can vary by region. In the southeastern U.S. the need will be much sooner than those horses living in cold or dry climates that don’t see mosquitoes emerge until later in the spring. It may also be necessary to give a second booster in mid- to late summer before the disease peaks. In the case of tetanus vaccine, annually is fine, but Wilson suggests that a horse facing surgery or that receives a puncture wound should be given a booster if the previous dose of toxoid was given more than six months prior.

In addition,  your horse’s may also need so-called risk-based vaccinations. The AAEP recommends that a risk assessment “be performed by, or in consultation with, a licensed veterinarian to identify which vaccines are appropriate for a given horse or population of horses.” Here are the vaccines, that the AAEP recommends administered based on a horse’s or herd’s particular risk factors: anthrax, botulism, equine herpesvirus (EHV), equine viral arteritis (EVA) for colts and breeding stallions, equine influenza, Potomac Horse Fever (PHF), rotavirus, and strangles.