Vax to relax

Horse vaccination

Vaccination is an important tool that helps to protect your horse from serious and life-threatening infections. Vaccines work by stimulating the body to produce antibodies – this means a much faster immune response when challenged by the real thing.


Tetanus is a core vaccine recommended for every horse in New Zealand. The bacterium Clostridium tetani is found in the soil and can get in through skin damage and open wounds. It produces a neurotoxin that leads to severe muscle tremors, recumbency and death.

The primary course for tetanus vaccination includes an initial sensitiser, with boosters in a month and then a year. Boosters are recommended every 1-3 years after the initial course.

If your horse is wounded and is not covered with previous vaccination it is important to contact your vet to ensure they get the protection they need. Depending on a range of factors this may include the tetanus anti-toxin which provides immediate protection for 2 weeks.


Strangles is an important vaccination if you take your horse out and about to compete or have other horses frequently coming on and off your property. Also known as Streptococcus equi equi, this is a highly contagious bacterial disease that often causes outbreaks. It is spread by direct contact, through the air, and by shared items like feed buckets. Clinical signs often include fever, nasal discharge, and swollen lymph nodes under the jaw. If you suspect this disease, contact your vet, and keep the horse isolated.

The vaccination course for strangles is 3 doses at 2-week intervals followed by yearly boosters, which are usually given as a combination vaccine with tetanus.

Equine Herpes Virus

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV 1 and 4) vaccine is also strongly recommended, especially for competition, racing, and breeding horses. It is a contagious viral disease which once contracted stays dormant in the horse and leads to reinfection at times of stress – usually when you least want it! Typically, it will cause respiratory infections, but can also cause abortion in mares, and more rarely neurological disease leading to death.

The vaccination course is two doses a month apart with 6 monthly boosters.

Broodmare vaccination checklist:

  • Tetanus vaccination 4-6 weeks before foaling date. If not previously vaccinated will need a primary course otherwise it is highly recommended to give the foal a tetanus antitoxin.
  • Stranges vaccination 4-6 weeks before foaling date to ensure the foal receives protection through the antibodies in the mare’s colostrum. If not previously vaccinated will need a primary course.
  • EHV vaccination at 5, 7, and 9 months of gestation to decrease the risk of Herpes abortion.

Foal vaccinations are recommended from 3 months of age.

Dr Alana Mockett BVSc


Franklin Vets

Franklin Vets - excellence in veterinary care for dairy, farming, lifestyle, equine and household pets. BESTPRACTICE ACCREDITED NZ.