“What vaccinations does my horse need, and when does he need them,” is a question we hear quite often in the veterinary world. The answer to this varies, and can most easily be answered by looking at core vaccination guidelines which are universal throughout the United States, and then reviewing risk based vaccination guidelines and determining what of the applicable diseases your horse is at risk of contracting based on lifestyle, location, travel, and more.

what vaccinations does my horse need to show

What vaccinations does my horse need? Show horses and horses that travel off their home property may have different vaccine requirements and needs than those kept at home.

What Are Core Vaccines?

Core vaccines are the vaccines that have been developed and are recommended for all horse owners within the United States. These are considered standard for all horses, and have been around for many years. They are considered important in keeping your horse healthy, safe to administer with minimal side effects, and in some cases, certain vaccines are even required by law (think rabies). Similar to vaccines administered to humans, these can vary by country so of course we’re going to focus on the US. Should your horse travel internationally, always be sure to check with the destination country for any additional requirements. 

The AVMA defines core vaccinations as those “that protect from 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 the majority of patients.”

Core Vaccination Guidelines

First and foremost, core vaccinations should be at the top of ever horse owner’s list. These are both considered safe and important, as well as in some cases legally required. 

The AAEP lists the four core vaccines as:

What Are Risk Based Vaccines?

Risk based vaccines are those determined to be beneficial in the health and protection of your horse based on risk factors. Those factors may include things such as your horses location of stabling, open or closed herds (whether your horse is in a location where other horses are coming and going – open, or in a private or static situation where no horses come or go from the property – closed), as well as regional diseases and risks based on location and climate, local situations (proximity to water, for example), and more.

It’s always important to understand the risks specific to your area and your and your horse’s lifestyle. Horses that show or compete or travel off their home property regularly have different risks than those that stay in one place. Other factors such as climate and insect population can also influence which risk based vaccines make the most sense to administer. The AAEP cautions horse owners that “disease risk may not be readily identified by laypersons; it is important to consult a veterinarian when developing a vaccination program.” 

Risk Based Vaccination Guidelines

The AAEP’s Vaccination Guidelines chart is an excellent resource to consult when discussing spring and fall shots for your horse. For more information on any individual vaccine, you can click on the link above to read the full details on the AAEP website directly.

vaccinate horses at home

Horses kept at home that do not regular leave the property may have different risk based vaccination needs than those in boarding situations.

So what vaccinations does my horse need?

At the end of the day, we always recommend the core vaccines, and from there our veterinarians will work with you to determine the best risk based vaccines to protect your horse. It’s important to consult with your vet on your vaccination plan prior to your actual appointment to ensure that they come prepared with the right vaccines for your horse’s needs. 

Every horse is different, so be sure to talk to your vet, or book your appointment and call us today and we are happy to help!