Vaccinations for the Horse


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Document compiled from previous SAVF brochure and Code of Practice - horses, compiled by Dr C Marlow (w.e.f. 1 August 2001)

Apart from regular deworming and a good nutritional programme, vaccination should form an integral part of the health programme of your horse. A good vaccination programme is the best and most cost-effective way of preventing most of the common infectious diseases in the horse. 
The particular vaccinations needed by your horse will largely depend upon the horse's age, use, exposure, general management and geographical location. Your local equine practitioner can advise you on the best vaccination programme for your horse. 
Most vaccines consist of inactivated or modified viruses or bacteria that will give an immunity to your horse without causing the actual disease. Two or more doses of a vaccine are usually necessary to provide adequate protection against a particular disease. Some antibodies stimulated by vaccination may decline over time and a booster vaccination may be required. Some vaccinations may not guarantee a 100% protection, but will limit the spread of a contagious disease and limit the severity in a particular horse. Certain diseases can be prevented and controlled by vaccination only. Some combination vaccines are available. Consult your equine veterinarian on the best programme for your horse. 
Confusion still exists amongst members of the TBA, trainers, veterinarians, members of other breed societies and other interested parties concerning the vaccination of horses, particularly the rules, regulations and movement controls that apply to African Horse Sickness (AHS). However, by following the accompanying vaccination schedule you will ensure that all the vaccinations are given and that the relevant documentation is kept up to date.


For the vaccination to be effective some guidelines should be strictly adhered to: 

Do's and don'ts of vaccinations:

Arican Horse Sickness

African horse sickness is caused by different serotypes (strains) of an insect borne virus and is common in late summer and autumn. Clinical signs may include a fever, haemorrhages in the mucous membranes, subcutaneous swelling of the head, fluid in the lungs and death. 

The vaccine is sold as two separate injections consisting of different serotypes of the horse sickness virus. It is critical to give combination one of the vaccine first, followed by combination two, at least three weeks later. 

General Notice (as printed in the Racing Calendar). 

  1. All horses, except those resident in Zimbabwe and the area defined in 2 below, shall be vaccinated against African Horse Sickness by a veterinarian, using a registered, non-expired, polyvalent horse sickness vaccine according to the manufacturers recommendations:

    1.1 as FOALS between 1 February and 31 July, and thereafter
    1.2 as yearlings between 1 August and 31 January, and thereafter
    1.3 either
          1.3.1 every year between 1 July and 31 December or
          1.3.2 at intervals not exceeding 12 months
  2. No HORSE resident in the magisterial districts of Cape Town, Vredenburg, Hopefield, Moorreesburg, Malmesbury, Wellington, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Kuilsrivier, Goodwood, Wynberg, Bellville, Simonstown, Somerset West, Mitchells Plain and Strand, shall be vaccinated against African Horse Sickness unless written permission of the Director of Animal Health of the Republic of South Africa has been obtained.
  3. HORSES resident in Zimbabwe shall be vaccinated against African Horse Sickness by a person or a veterinarian using a non-expired, registered, polyvalent horse sickness vaccine according to the schedule prescribed in 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 above.

Additional Information

  1. The primary vaccination consists of Horse Sickness Vaccine I (AHS I) and Horse Sickness Vaccine II (AHS II) administered at least 3 weeks apart to foals between 1 February and 31 July by a veterinarian.  
  2. The primary vaccination should preferably not be administered before foals are 6 months of age to obviate the effect of colostral immunity.  
  3. Revaccination consists of AHS I and AHS II, again administered by a veterinarian, at least 3 weeks apart to the yearlings between 1 August and 31 January.  
  4. Subsequent revaccinations consisting of AHS I and AHS II must be administered, again by a veterinarian, either at intervals not exceeding 12 months, or every year between 1 July and 31 December. This option has been introduced specifically to take the racing commitments of horses in training into consideration.  
  5. Breeders in the Surveillance Zone must obtain permission to vaccinate with AHS vaccine by faxing the completed “Request for Permission to Vaccinate” form to the State Veterinarian Boland at (021) 808 5125.  
  6. Vaccinations must be performed by a veterinarian, all particulars entered in the New Adhesive Vaccination Form or Passport; and the veterinarian must affix his/her practice stamp, sign the document(s) and include his/her qualifications.  
  7. Movement controls apply to all horses (except unweaned foals at foot accompanied by their dams) moving from the AHS infected Zone into the Western Cape Province and within the Western Cape Province from the AHS Protected Zone entering the AHS Surveillance Zone and the AHS Free Area.  
  8. The horse must be registered and must be accompanied by its Passport in which the vaccination details, as stipulated in item 6 above, have been entered.  
  9. Each horse must be accompanied by the “Health Certificate for Movement”, which becomes part of the passport, duly completed and signed by your veterinarian not more than 48 hours prior to traveling.  
  10. This health certificate will certify, inter alia, that the horse was vaccinated against AHS by a veterinarian at least 60 days and not more than 24 months prior to traveling and also that the horse has not been in contact during the past 15 days with other Equidae suffering from an infectious or contagious disease.  
  11. The veterinarian must pre-notify the State Veterinarian Boland by fax (021 808 5125) of the intended movement by completing in full, the “Pre-Notification of Horse Movement” form.


Tetanus or lockjaw is caused by a toxin produced by bacteria which are present in the soil and the intestinal tract of animals. The bacteria gain entrance to the body through wounds, lacerations or the umbilicus of new born foals. Clinical signs will include: muscle stiffness, flared nostrils, hypersensitivity, locking of the jaw and death. 

  1. Vaccination is advisable but not compulsory.
  2. Primary vaccination consists of 2 vaccinations 4-6 weeks apart. Revaccination consists of 1 vaccination every year, preferably in spring, prior to the foaling season.


Two viruses are important in this group. Equine herpesvirus I (EHV -1) may cause abortions, foal death, paralysis and signs of flu. Whereas, EHV - 4 will cause respiratory tract infections with symptoms of fever, nasal discharge and coughing in young horses. Some horses may be asymptomatic carriers. Immunity is of short duration, and repeat vaccinations are important in pregnant mares. 

  1. Vaccination depends on the product used and therefore the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Equine Influenza

Equine influenza virus is one of the most contagious virus groups in the horse. It can be spread in a stable over a matter of a few days and will result in clinical signs of a cold: dry hacking cough, nasal discharge, fever, depression and inappetence. If exercised too soon, the clinical signs may linger for weeks. Horses that travel and become exposed to other horses are especially at risk. Duration of protection after vaccination is short and a booster vaccination is required in certain types of horses. Consult your veterinarian on advice as to whether your horse needs more frequent vaccination.  However, vaccinations against Equine influenza are no longer required in terms of the rules of the Jockey Club of Southern Africa. 


Rabies is caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of infected carnivores. It is very common in Kwazulu Natal and is sometimes seen during outbreaks in other parts of the country. Rabies can be transmitted from animals to man and in the horse the clinical signs may include nervous signs varying from a frenzy to inability to swallow and paralysis. 

During outbreaks of rabies foals should be vaccinated at 2-4 months and adults annually.


Botulism is caused by a toxin produced by a certain type of bacteria. The bacteria are usually associated with organic material like rat carcasses among feed. The shaker foal syndrome, a different form of the disease as seen in North America, has not been reported in South Africa. 

Clinical signs that may be seen include inability to swallow leading to paralysis and death. Contact your veterinarian for advice on whether it is necessary to vaccinate your horse against botulism.  

Foals should receive their first  vaccination at 4-7 months with a booster 4-8 weeks later. Unvaccinated  adults receive a first vaccination followed by a booster 4-8 weeks later. Previously vaccinated horses are revaccinated annually. Pregnant mares should be vaccinated 1-3 months before foaling.

Vaccinations in Training Establishments

  1. Vaccinations will obviously have to fit in with training and racing programmes.
  2. AHS vaccinations must be administered either at intervals not exceeding 12 months or every year between 1 July and 31 December, by a veterinarian and all particulars must be entered in the passport.

Vaccination schedule

Stallions – revaccination at least 3 weeks apart – at end of breeding season in high risk areas.
FEBRUARY EHV-1 If Pneumequine used – revaccinate all resident mares – first primary vaccination all recently introduced, non-vaccinated broodmares.
If Pneumequine used – second primary vaccination (4 weeks later) of all recently introduced broodmares. 
AHS Breeders in Surveillance Zone – obtain permission to vaccinate weanlings.
APRIL EHV-1 If Pneumobort K + IB used – all pregnant mares – first of three vaccinations.
MAY AHS I Weanlings – primary vaccination by veterinarian.
AHS Breeders in Surveillance Zone – obtain permission to vaccinate all stallions as well as broodmares to be bred outside the Surveillance Zone.
Weanlings – primary vaccination by veterinarian at least 3 weeks after AHS I.
Before 20 June – all broodmares and stallions – revaccination by veterinarian.
EHV-1 If Pneumobort K + IB used – all pregnant mares – second of 3 vaccinations.
Before 15 July – all broodmares and stallions at least 3 weeks after AHS I – revaccination by veterinarian.
AHS Complete broodmare passports – Veterinarian to apply practice stamp, signature and qualifications.
BOTULISM Weanlings – first primary vaccination.
TETANUS Weanlings – first primary vaccination.
EHV-1 If Pneumoquine used – revaccination – all broodmares.
If Pneumobort K + IB used – all pregnant mares – third of 3 vaccinations.
BOTULISM Weanlings – second primary vaccination, Broodmares, stallions, yearlings, 2 year olds – annual revaccination.
TETANUS Weanlings – second primary vaccination. Broodmares, stallions, yearlings, 2 year olds – annual revaccination
YEARLING ID Yearling identity documents – Complete vaccination particulars. Veterinarian to verify all identification particulars, apply practice stamp, signature and qualifications (to be returned to J.C. before 30 September).
SEPTEMBER AHS Breeders in Surveillance Zone – obtain permission to vaccinate yearlings (vaccinated as weanlings in May/June).
Yearlings – revaccination by veterinarian (were weanlings in May).
AHS I 2 Year olds – revaccination by veterinarian (were yearlings previous Oct).
NOVEMBER AHS II Yearlings – Before 20 November – by veterinarian at least 3 weeks after AHS 1.     
AHS II 2 Year olds – by veterinarian at least 3 weeks after AHS I – Complete passports. 
YEARLING PASSPORTS Complete vaccination particulars. Veterinarian to apply practice stamp, signature and qualifications.


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