Health Library

The Healthy Horse

You’ll know your horse is healthy by the shiny hair coat that glistens in the sunlight without adding special sprays. The healthy horse is in good weight, not too fat and not too thin. You can feel the ribs if you press lightly moving across the ribcage but you cannot see the ribs even when the horse takes a deep breath. The eyes are bright and wide open, the corneas are clear and there is no discharge. The healthy horse breathes with ease and has no cough or nasal discharge. The hooves are uniform and free of cracks and growth rings. The healthy horse has legs that move easily with no swelling or lameness. The healthy horse should have the following:

Temperature 99 - 100.5 degrees C
Pulse 32-40 beats per minute
Respiration 8-12 breaths per minute

Health Basics



All foals should begin their foal series of vaccinations by the age of 4 months. At this age they should have a minimum of 2 doses of Eastern & Western Encephalomyelitis, Tetanus, Rabies and West Nile Virus. The 2 doses should be given 3-4 weeks apart. Foals that are at risk because they live in a boarding stable or show barn should also be given vaccinations for Rhinopneumonitis, Influenza and Strangles beginning at 6 months of age. These vaccinations also require a multiple dose series.

Adult Horses

Adult horses living in Georgia must be protected from the Deadly Four diseases.

  1. Eastern Encephalomyelitis is transmitted by mosquitoes and the results of infection are nearly always fatal. In middle Georgia we have mosquitoes year round and vaccination is recommended every 6 months.
  2. Horses are highly susceptible to Tetanus. The bacterium that causes tetanus, Clostridium Tetanii, is carried in the manure of horses, a good reason to always wear your shoes. Horses develop tetanus when the manure contaminates a wound and the bacterium enters the horse’s body. The vaccine is very inexpensive and a yearly booster is very important.
  3. West Nile Virus is also transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease is easily prevented with an inexpensive vaccine and we recommend vaccinating twice a year.
  4. Finally the most deadly of all is Rabies. Easily prevented a Rabies vaccination is a yearly essential for Georgia horses.

Show Horses

Show horses, horses living in boarding stables and active horses traveling to parks, trail rides, clinics etc should also be protected against Influenza, Rhinopneumonitis and Strangles. Influenza and Rhinopneumonitis vaccines are given every 6 months and the Strangles vaccine is given once a year. For horses that are traveling into the Northeastern United states we recommend adding Potomac Horse Fever protection. Horses that are traveling into southern Texas and Mexico should be vaccinated for Venezuelan Encephalomyelitis.

Breeding Stallions

Breeding stallions should be vaccinated 60 days prior to the start of their breeding season. Stallions should be tested for the presence of antibodies to Equine Viral Arteritis and vaccinated accordingly.

Pregnant Mares

Pregnant mares should be vaccinated against Equine Herpes Virus 1 during the 5th, 7th and 9th months of pregnancy. In addition they should have vaccinations against Eastern & Western Encephalomyelitis, Influenza, Tetanus, Rabies and West Nile virus 30 days prior to their due date.


Horses are highly susceptible to internal parasites. Georgia has a warm, moist climate that promotes optimum survival of internal parasites. Many dewormers have been on the market for over 20 years and resistance to these drugs has developed. For many years it was recommended that horses be dewormed using a frequent rotation program with a different drug used every 60 days. In fact this program is now known to actually contribute to the development of resistance. At this time there are no new equine dewormers being developed. It has become essential for the horse owner to treat their horse for internal parasites only when needed to protect their horse and to minimize the development of resistance. We now recommend using a strategic deworming program using a McMaster’s fecal analysis as a guide.

In Georgia the most damaging parasites are the small Strongyles (Bloodworms). Small Strongyles are at peak activity in the fall. All horses should have a fecal sample tested in September – October. We look at the fecal egg count and group horses into one of 3 categories, Low, Medium and High. Horses with low fecal egg counts do not need deworming. These horses can be treated for bots and tapeworms in December after a hard killing frost and many only need a single treatment per year. Horses with moderate to high fecal egg counts should be dewormed. With a second treatment after a hard, killing frost for bots and tapeworms. A spring fecal test should be done in April. Most adult horses in Georgia do not need deworming during the summer months when temperatures are high and rainfall is low. By using an effective product at the time of most impact most adult horses can be dewormed 1-3 times a year and achieve excellent control.

Several years ago daily dewormers were very popular. A daily dewormer must be given every day in the proper amount. Horses which are fed in groups will swap feed buckets and not receive their proper dose. Horses that spill their feed may not consume their full dose. When horses do not receive their full dose each day it is inevitable that resistance will develop. After many years of testing horses who were colicking while on these products we no longer recommend them.

Once a horse has developed resistance to a drug you can no longer use that drug in that horse ever again.

Dewormers belong to 4 basic classes of drugs. Many different brand names are used to sell the same drug; for instance EquiMax, Equimectrin, Eqvalan, IverCare, Ivercide, Phoenectin, Rotectin 1, and Zimectrin are all the same drug, Ivermectin. This can be confusing to horse owners when selecting products for deworming. We encourage our horse owners to let us help you when selecting your horses’ deworming product.


A Coggins test is a simple blood test that screens for the disease Equine Infectious Anemia, a fatal disease for which there is no cure. A yearly test is required for any horse living in a boarding stable or training barn. A Coggins test is also required for all horses that attend equine events such as trail rides, horse shows, rodeos, ropings etc. An interstate health certificate cannot be issued without a current Coggins test.


Some horses are born with strong hooves and correct legs, they wear their hooves evenly and can go for long periods of time without having their hooves trimmed. But for most horses regular hoof care is a necessity whether it be shoeing or trimming they hoof care generally every 6 weeks. Young growing weanlings and yearlings can avoid a lifetime of lameness with a regular visit from a skilled farrier.

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