State and federal law requires horses traveling interstate to be accompanied by proof of a negative Coggins test—for equine infectious anemia—so owners have their veterinarians draw blood for this annually. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends annual core vaccines for all horses and twice-a-year administration for some vaccines depending on the horse’s risk. Many competing horses are required to receive twice-a-year vaccination against equine influenza virus and equine herpesvirus-1 and -4 (EHV, often referred to as “rhino”). All horses should have an oral examination and, if needed, dental float once a year; some might require more frequent exams or procedures depending on their needs.
The AAEP has published Equine Parasite Control Guidelines with strategic deworming recommendations. These vary based on pasture stocking density, management practices, and the ages of horses on the farm.
That’s a lot to keep track of when a facility houses many horses with different owners and needs. I’ve proposed one way to handle this organizational challenge. I recommend having one person be the liaison between the boarding or training facility and the veterinary practice. This doesn’t necessarily mean the liaison makes decisions about veterinary care for all horses, just that he or she is the main contact in charge of scheduling preventive care visits and alerting horse owners that the vet will be coming to the farm. This person is most commonly the facility’s trainer or manager. He or she should also be aware of the horses’ travel or competition commitments. For example, we don’t want to vaccinate a horse the day before it goes to a show, as he might not be feeling his best so soon after vaccination. Another variable to consider is sedation prior to showing. The United States Equestrian Federation, for instance, requires a washout period between elective sedation (as required for dental exams) and competing to avoid a positive drug test.
Organizing preventive care needs at boarding facilities is a win for all involved. Most importantly, horses benefit because they get the care they need when they need it. Horse owners benefit because they get reminders about their horses’ needs and don’t have to worry about missing or being late with essential care. Further, multiple clients can split the farm call, reducing everyone’s cost. Veterinarians benefit because they can take care of multiple patients during one trip. Spring and fall are very busy times of the year for veterinarians, so efficiency is very helpful and appreciated.
I recommend the farm liaison use a spreadsheet like the one below to track each horse’s preventive care needs in one place. It’s helpful to have all horses listed on one document for easy reference prior to and during vet visits. For the chart to be useful and accurate, update it after each visit. Things to track might include:
- Coggins tests;
- Spring and fall vaccines (recommendations vary depending on location and risk factors);
- Dental exam/float, noting whether the practitioner recommends annual or biannual floats for each horse;
- Sheath cleaning, if needed, which can be done when the horse is sedated for dental procedures;
- Fecal test results and deworming;
- Endocrine monitoring, if needed, including testing for equine metabolic syndrome and pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, or PPID;
- Microchip placement; and
- Notes about each horse (e.g., a history of vaccine reactions, being needle-shy).
In my experience, this method has helped streamline annual or biannual veterinary visits significantly and made sure all horses are cared for properly. Sharing this document with the veterinarian enables him or her to set aside enough time to get everything done and arrive at the farm prepared with the correct equipment and number of vaccines. Everyone benefits from preventive care when provided in a timely and consistent fashion.