Hold your horses.... Spring is finally here!
Spring time is when we start thinking about getting our horses ready for the year. The AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) website has lots of good information, especially under the horse owner tab.
Vaccines. There are multiple vaccines on the market. It is important to speak with your veterinarian about what protocol is recommended for your horse. The CORE vaccines that are recommended for all equids protect against Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis (EEE, WEE), Rabies, Tetanus, West Nile (WNV). These are generally annual vaccines, given in the spring, prior to vectors emerging. Other common diseases we vaccinate against are Equine Herpesvirus 1 and 4 (EHV-1, EHV-4) and Equine Influenza Virus (EIV), which are given based on exposure. Foals should begin a 3 dose series starting at 4-6 months of age and then annually. Pregnant mares should be vaccinated against EHV at 5, 7, 9 month of gestation to prevent abortions, in addition to receiving annual vaccine boosters 1 month before foal is due. For unknown vaccination status and other risk-based vaccines, please consult your veterinarian to decide best options for your individual horses.
Traveling. For any horse that leaves the farm, an annual Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) or Coggins test is highly recommended and often required by the destination facility. A Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI or health certificate) is also required for interstate travel.
Deworming. The goal of deworming, is not to eliminate all worms from your horse or environment but rather to maintain the parasite number/load low enough to not harm the animal. Each horse's parasite load is different based on its immune function. Fecal egg counts (FEC's) are always recommended to determine horse's shedding status. Deworming recommendations are based on these results. At a minimum, adult horses (>2yr) should be dewormed twice per year with ivermectin in the spring and moxidectin plus praziquantel in the fall. Do not get in the habit of deworming more frequently that every 6 months or rotating drugs without justification. This leads to resistance an less effective deworming products. Foals are different, at 2-3 months and 6 months, give ivermectin plus praziquantel, and at 12 months give ivermectin. Yearlings and 2 year olds should be dewormed 3-4 times per year with ivermectin, including praziquantel in the fall. Variation in drug used might be necessary based on your veterinarian's recommendation and FEC results.
Routine care. Other things to consider are annual dental exams and routine hoof care. Dental exams should be performed by your veterinarian, who will administer a sedative to allow complete visualization of the oral cavity and teeth, to address minor problems before they become worse. This includes the use of a power float to reduce sharp enamel points on teeth. Horses also need routine farrier work, whether shoed or barefoot. Flies also need to be addressed because they are a nuisance and transmit diseases. There are lots of sprays on the market, some are safe for the horses and riders. Other options are face mask and fly boots.