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Protect Your Equine Companion With Expert Guide on Horse Vaccines

Vaccinations are crucial for safeguarding horses against a range of common and potentially severe infectious diseases. At Prime Stables, we understand that comprehensive equine care goes beyond just providing shelter—it involves ensuring the health and well-being of your beloved horses. 

This guide is designed to equip you with essential knowledge about horse vaccines, helping you make informed decisions to keep your equine companions healthy and protected.


Tetanus, often known as ‘lockjaw’, is a severe, often fatal disease caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which is commonly found in the soil and horse faeces. This bacterium can enter a horse’s body through deep, penetrating wounds, particularly in the hooves. The mortality rate for tetanus can be as high as 90% without immediate treatment.


  • Progressive stiffness and reluctance to move
  • Muscle spasms, particularly in the wound area or hind limbs
  • Difficulty chewing (lockjaw)
  • Flared nostrils and a startled expression
  • Ears erect and tail held out
  • Heightened reflex reactions to noise or sudden movements
  • Elevated temperature up to 43°C

Vaccination Schedule

Tetanus vaccination is highly effective and recommended for all horses. It begins with two primary injections spaced about four weeks apart. A booster is then administered one year after the initial course and every 2 to 5 years thereafter. For pregnant mares, a booster in the eleventh month of pregnancy helps transfer antibodies to the foal, providing initial protection.

Equine Influenza

Equine Influenza, or ‘horse flu’, is a highly contagious viral disease that primarily affects the respiratory system. While typically non-fatal, the disease can significantly weaken a horse and leave it susceptible to other infections.


  • High fever
  • Harsh, dry cough
  • Nasal discharge, initially clear, becoming thick and purulent

Vaccine Schedule

For the effective prevention of equine influenza, horse owners are advised to adhere to a strict vaccination schedule. The initial vaccination protocol involves two injections: the first dose is followed by a second dose 21 to 92 days later. After these primary vaccinations, a first booster should be administered between 150 and 215 days later. To maintain immunity, subsequent boosters should be given annually.

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)

EHV can cause respiratory disease, abortion in pregnant mares, and even neurological disease. There are several strains of the virus, but EHV-1 and EHV-4 are the most significant due to their impact on reproductive and respiratory health.


  • Fever
  • Respiratory distress, including coughing and nasal discharge
  • In pregnant mares, abortion
  • In severe cases, neurological impairment which may lead to paralysis

Vaccine Schedule

Vaccination against EHV, particularly EHV-1, is recommended for breeding stock to reduce the risk of abortion. The vaccination schedule typically involves administering the vaccine during the fifth, seventh, and ninth months of the mare’s pregnancy to enhance the protection of both the mare and her foal.

Outside of breeding contexts, regular vaccination against EHV may also be advised for horses at higher risk of exposure, such as those in boarding facilities or those that travel frequently. Regular consultation with a veterinarian is crucial to tailor the vaccination schedule to the specific needs and risk exposure of individual horses.

Horse Livery

Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA)

Equine Viral Arteritis is a viral disease that can affect both the respiratory and reproductive systems of horses. It is transmitted through respiratory secretions and direct contact and can be particularly severe in pregnant mares, leading to abortion, or causing respiratory illness in other adult horses.


  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Anorexia
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Swelling of the legs and genitals
  • Abortion in pregnant mares

Vaccination Schedule

Vaccination against EVA is recommended especially for stallions and pregnant mares in high-risk areas or those involved in international breeding. The vaccination involves an initial series of injections followed by annual boosters. Stallions and mares should be vaccinated before the breeding season to ensure protection during this critical period.


Strangles is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi and is one of the most common and contagious equine diseases worldwide. It primarily affects the lymph nodes around the throat and can lead to severe respiratory complications.


  • High fever
  • Thick nasal discharge
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes under the jaw or around the throat, which can abscess and burst
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Breathing difficulties due to swollen lymph nodes

Vaccination Schedule

Vaccination for strangles is recommended for horses at high risk of exposure, such as those in environments with frequent new horse introductions. The vaccine is typically administered via intramuscular injection with an initial course followed by regular boosters as advised by a veterinarian.


Rotavirus primarily affects young foals, causing diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration and severe health issues. It is highly contagious and can be devastating in breeding farms.


  • Watery, greenish diarrhoea
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite

Vaccination Schedule

Vaccination against rotavirus is advised for pregnant mares to enhance the rotavirus antibodies in their colostrum, providing passive immunity to their newborn foals. The vaccine is given in two doses during the mare’s late pregnancy at intervals recommended by a veterinarian.

Competition Requirements

Equestrian sport governing bodies such as the British Horse Society (BHS), British Dressage, British Eventing, and British Showjumping have strict rules regarding vaccinations, particularly for equine influenza. Compliance with these rules is essential for participation in almost all types of competitions:

  1. Primary Vaccinations: Before a horse can compete, it must receive two primary injections against equine influenza. These injections must be administered no less than 21 days and no more than 92 days apart.
  2. First Booster: The first booster injection must occur no less than 150 days and no more than 215 days following the second primary vaccination.
  3. Annual Boosters: After the first booster, horses must receive booster vaccinations at intervals not exceeding one year. If any booster is late or missed, the horse must start the entire primary course again before it can return to competition.
  4. Pre-Competition Window: No vaccination should be given within the 7 days immediately preceding the day of any competition. This rule helps to prevent any adverse reactions affecting performance during events.

These stringent requirements are enforced to prevent the spread of infectious diseases at gatherings of large equine populations, such as races, shows, and other events. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in disqualification from events and potential outbreaks of diseases among competing horses.

No Vaccines = No Insurance

In the UK, while there is no statutory law that mandates vaccinations for horses, many insurance policies require up-to-date vaccinations. Owners should verify the specifics with their insurers to ensure compliance and maintain coverage.

How to Manage Vaccination Schedules

Proper management of vaccination schedules is key to ensuring the health and compliance of horses, particularly those involved in competition. Effective scheduling can prevent disease and reduce the risk of missing crucial vaccinations.

  1. Maintain Regular Communication with Your Veterinarian

Consistent dialogue with a qualified veterinarian is essential. They can provide tailored advice based on the specific health needs and risk factors of your horse. Regular check-ups allow for adjustments to vaccination schedules as needed, based on emerging health concerns or changes in the horse’s environment or use.

  1. Use a Digital Calendar

Setting up reminders on a digital calendar helps ensure no vaccination is overlooked. Many horse owners find it helpful to schedule alerts a few days before the due date for a vaccination, giving them ample time to arrange for a veterinarian visit.

  1. Keep Detailed Health Records

Maintain an up-to-date health record for each horse. This should include all vaccinations, deworming, and other veterinary care received. Detailed records not only help in monitoring health over time but are also indispensable for compliance with competition requirements.

  1. Understand and Follow Legal and Competition Rules

Stay informed about the latest vaccination requirements set by governing bodies and other equestrian sports organisations. This is crucial for competition horses but is also good practice to ensure all horses are protected against prevalent diseases.

  1. Educate All Horse Handlers

Ensure that all individuals who handle your horses, from stable hands to trainers, understand the importance of vaccinations. They should be aware of the symptoms of vaccine-preventable diseases and the role they play in maintaining the schedule and monitoring the horses’ health.

  1. Plan for Boosters and Annual Vaccinations

Most vaccines require periodic booster shots to maintain their effectiveness. Plan these, especially if your horse competes regularly. Missing a booster can mean having to restart the vaccination process, which can be costly and leave your horse vulnerable to infection.

  1. Immediate Action on New Vaccinations

When new vaccines become available, or when there are updates to vaccination protocols, take immediate action. Consult with your veterinarian to understand how these changes impact your horse and adjust your schedules accordingly.

Your Partner in Equine Health and Comfort

Prime Stables is committed to supporting horse owners not only by providing bespoke, high-quality equestrian buildings but also by offering guidance on comprehensive horse care. Whether you are looking to erect a new stable, require horse equipment, or seek expert advice on the best practices in equine health, Prime Stables is your one-stop shop.
Contact us now so we can help you make the best choices for your horses’ care and accommodation.

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