Vaccination Strategy

    Basics of foal vaccinations.

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Vaccination Strategy

Discuss vaccinations with your vet to devise the ultimate plan for your horse's needs.

Discuss vaccinations with your vet to devise the ultimate plan for your horse’s needs.

By Jenn Webster

If you’re a horse owner, it’s likely you’ve come up against the vaccination debate a time or two. For every individual equine, risk factors vary based on the animal’s age, exposure risk, value, general management and geographic location. There is no one single vaccination protocol for horses, however an informed vaccine strategy is one of the basic, most important things you can do to maintain your equine’s health. Your best bet is to discuss a protocol with your vet, however.

Here are a few basic considerations with specific key points regarding foals. 

Tetanus

Tetanus is caused by toxic-producing bacteria present in the intestinal tract of many animals and found in the soil where horses live. Spores enter the horse’s body through wounds or the umbilical cord of newborn foals. Tetanus is a constant threat to horses and humans and as such, horses should be vaccinated against annually.

Foals can receive their first tetanus vaccine as early as six months of age if the mare was vaccinated within 30 days of foaling, or three months of age if the mare was not vaccinated. Talk to your vet.

Encephalomyelitis

This disease is often referred to as “sleeping sickness” and caused by Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE) or Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE). These two strains of the disease have been seen throughout North America. A third version, Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis (VEE) has recently been seen in Mexico. These diseases are usually transmitted via mosquitoes and symptoms vary a great deal, however they result in the degeneration of the brain.

Foals can be vaccinated at six months of age if the mare was vaccinated within 30 days of foaling, or three months of age if the mare was not vaccinated. Talk to your vet and specifically ask if your foals need an encephalomyelitis booster.

Influenza

This is one of the most common respiratory diseases in horses and the virus is highly contagious. Horses that travel or are exposed to high horses traffic should be vaccinated regularly against it. Flu viruses can result in nasal discharge, fever, coughing and loss of appetite. The disease can be expensive to treat and is usually very uncomfortable for your horse to endure. Often, this vaccine is given in combination with the rhinopneumonitis vaccine.

Foals can be vaccinated at six months of age if the mare was non-vaccinated.

Rhinopneumonitis

It’s important to know that there are two very different disease viruses: equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) and equine herpesvirus type 4 (EHV-4), that cause two different diseases, which are both known as rhinopneumonitis. Both cause respiratory tract problems, however EHV-1 can also cause abortion in pregnant mares, foal death and paralysis.

Since this vaccine is often given in a combination with the flu vaccine, as mentioned above, foals can be vaccinated at six months of age if the mare was non-vaccinated. Speak to your vet about flu/rhino boosters.

Strangles

No matter where you live, strangles is a highly contagious disease you should hope your horse never contract. If your equine does contract this disease, consult with your veterinarian for a treatment protocol. If your horse has contracted strangles in the past, ask your veterinarian about vaccinating this animal specifically – some vets think the horse may receive enough immunity from being exposed to the disease in the first place. There are some side-effects associated with the vaccine, because it is a modified live virus. This means the vaccine cannot cause serious disease in the horse, also allowing it to provide longer lasting protection. As such, this class of vaccine is often not recommended for pregnant mares. The efficiency of this vaccine has been questioned by many vets because outbreaks can occur even in vaccinated herds. Administered intra-nasally (IN), this vaccine requires a booster administered three to four weeks after the initial shot has been given.

Can be given to foals starting at six to nine months.

Rabies

Rabies is a scary disease that always results in death. Luckily, it is more prevalent in some areas than others – concern areas include southern Saskatchewan and the hotter southwestern states like Arizona and New Mexico. If you also choose to vaccinate your horses against rabies, your veterinarian may not want to administer a rabies vaccine on the same day as other vaccines as some serious health threats can occur.

Foals can be vaccinated against rabies at six, seven or 12 months of age if the mare was vaccinated. Speak with your vet.

West Nile Virus

There haven’t been a lot of Canadian cases in recent months, but West Nile Virus (WNV) should not be forgotten about. This disease is a mosquito- borne virus that can cause swelling and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord in horses, birds and humans. In Alberta, WNV is a federally reportable disease. This vaccine requires a booster in the initial sequence.

Foals from unvaccinated mares can be vaccinated for WNV for the first time at six months of age or older. The second vaccination should come three to four weeks later.

A Tale of Mistaken Identity

By Jenn Webster

Taylored-Revolution

As the date of April 9, 2013, approached, owners Janice and Jack Hepburn of Cochrane, Alberta, waited with anticipation. The days passed. April 10th became April 22nd and still, no foal for their beautiful palomino mare, Miss Chexy Whiz, better known as “Chexy”.

Rewind to 2012.

Chexy had been bred via artificial insemination to the 2004 sorrel stallion, Lokota Chic with the help of a professional veterinarian. Her last breeding date was recorded as May 2, 2012. The Hepburns were ecstatic that their mare was pregnant and upon their return from the vet clinic, they put Chexy out to pasture with a couple of their older geldings and a younger stud colt, yet to be gelded. All was well on their little acreage, with the prospect of a new foal to arrive in the spring.

Fast forward to 2013.

In preparation of Chexy’s foaling, she was brought into a stall each evening in April and Jack began the midnight hour checks on the mare. As the days continued to go by, the Hepburns couldn’t understand why the foal’s grand entry into the world was taking so long. They decided to borrow a FoAlert birth monitoring system from a friend, so Jack was no longer required to go out to the barn in the middle of the night.

“I called our vet and discussed our concerns about Chexy. He confirmed that the due date was April 9, 2013, but since she has never foaled before we had nothing to which we could compare this pregnancy. My mare was healthy and all seemed fine,” relayed Janice.

All the Hepburns could do was wait. Yet, as the middle of May approached they became increasingly concerned for the health of their mare and foal in utero.

Janice researched what she could about other broodmares in similar situations and discovered that it was possible for some mares to be pregnant longer than 11 months.

“We continued to bring her in at night and finally, the signs were becoming obvious that Chexy was nearing the end of her pregnancy. We could see her sides moving as the foal kicked and moved around. Chexy began waxing up.”

On May 21, 2013, the Hepburns left Chexy in the barn on a cold and rainy afternoon for two hours, so they could visit a friend. When they returned, they found a beautiful buckskin filly aside the mare, standing, dry and nursing. Both horses appeared healthy.

“We were so happy that things went well, especially because our records indicated that Chexy had been in foal for over a year!” said Janice.

“I plastered Facebook with baby pics and talked to the stallion owner and of course, we were all excited that everything had turned out fine.”

The players in this wacky tale of mistaken identity, Taylored Revolution (bay) stands in front of Miss Chexy Whiz.

The players in this wacky tale of mistaken identity, Taylored Revolution (bay) stands in front of Miss Chexy Whiz.

With a darling little buckskin filly running in their pasture alongside her dam, the Hepburns never gave the foal’s lineage another thought. Janice pulled hairs to submit for DNA testing, picked out a few name choices and filled out all the necessary paperwork to get her registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

“We were waiting for her papers. And waiting. And waiting,” chuckled Janice.

Finally she picked up the phone to contact the AQHA directly.

“I spoke to someone in the DNA department who told me that sire of this foal was not Lokota Chic but instead – Taylored Revolution,” Janice recalled.

The news hit her like a ton of bricks, for this was the registered name of the year-and-a-half-old stud colt which had been pastured with her pregnant mare, and long since been gelded. She tried to wrap her head around what the DNA agent was saying.

“Taylored Revolution was a gelding… I said to her, ‘AQHA has made a mistake. There is no way this could happen. My mare was pregnant when we brought her home…’”

Janice could hardly believe her ears. She kept repeating the word “impossible” to the agent.

To which the agent politely replied, “DNA does not lie, Ma’am.”

“After several minutes of listening to her, telling me that DNA does not lie, and yes, ‘Your stud at a year-and-a-half bred your mare…’ I had to believe her.”

The agent suggested that Janice look at the dates of when her stallion, Taylored Revolution, had been gelded. She gently reminded Janice that he had been in the same pasture as Chexy. And for further proof, the agent checked with a color specialist who said a sorrel (Lokota Chic) and a palomino (Chexy) could not produce a buckskin.

“I never knew that!” laughed Janice.

“She said a palomino and a bay (Taylored Revolution), however, could produce a buckskin. I never knew that either!”

"We have hopes that she will be a reining horse that I can show one day. She has the bloodlines." - Janice Hepburn

“We have hopes that she will be a reining horse that I can show one day. She has the bloodlines.” – Janice Hepburn

When Janice called her vet to explain what had happened, he immediately said, “Well that explains why the foaling dates were wrong!”

Janice and her veterinarian have determined that Chexy had been in foal when she came home from the clinic. However, they figure that she absorbed the pregnancy and came into her cycle again approximately 20 days later. On approximately June 15, 2012, Chexy was bred by the Hepburn’s then stallion, who was only one-and-half-years-old at the time.

“When we took Chexy into the vet to confirm the pregnancy as per our contract, she was indeed in foal. But not to Lokota Chic,” Janice said.

And since the breeding to Lokota Chic had been via artificial insemination, the AQHA required the resulting foal to be DNA-tested.

“There are so many lessons I have learned as a result of all this. Thank-goodness for DNA testing! Tough lesson to be learned, but what a lesson to remember!” she quipped.

“My sister-in-law asked me if I still liked our filly, now that we knew she was something different than what we expected. I told her, ‘I liked her yesterday when I thought I knew who her sire was and I like her today, now that I know who her sire really is.’

“It still amazes me that this happened. I just shake my head! We are so thrilled that we have a beautiful buckskin filly with great bloodlines. We couldn’t have planned this any better even if we tried to,” Janice expressed.

As a result, the Hepburns will have to redo the filly’s AQHA paperwork – since Janice was actually the owner of the stallion at the time of breeding. The date and type of breeding on the papers will have to be amended. Plus, the filly’s registered name will have to be changed.

“I have changed it to Taylored Made Whiz. I think it’s kind of cute and appropriate,” Janice smiled.

Taylored Revolution is now in training with Wendy Nelson and his owners are hopeful he will make it to the futurity show arena this year.

Taylored Revolution is now in training with Wendy Nelson and his owners are hopeful he will make it to the futurity show arena this year.

April Issue Survey

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We would love to get your feedback on our April issue. To thank you for your time spent doing the survey, we are giving away a pair of Professionals Choice splint boots as a prize – we will randomly draw one winner from all of the responses received.

The survey closes after a definitive number of responses so don’t delay.

The survey only takes five minutes to complete, and we truly do appreciate your feedback!

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