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Buying or Adopting a Horse – What About Vaccinations and Biosecurity?

You have found your new horse – what do you need to think about concerning vaccination history and biosecurity before you take him home?

Hopefully you have had a comprehensive veterinary pre-purchase examination – taking on a horse is not unlike buying a used car. A thorough pre-purchase examination is your best defense against an unhappy health or unsoundness surprise. But what specific questions should you ask about vaccines and biosecurity? If you are buying young stock from a breeder or an agent, try to obtain written evidence of primary and booster vaccines administered at the appropriate time.



A surprising number of well – bred and otherwise well cared for young stock do not receive proper initial vaccines and boosters, which will compromise their response and immunity gained from vaccines going forward. When in doubt, it is advisable to repeat priming and booster vaccines.

A great resource for vaccine recommendations is the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) website. If you have had a pre-purchase examination performed, the veterinarian should question the owner with respect to vaccination and disease history and can advise you accordingly.

If you are not having a pre-purchase examination, don’t be afraid to ask the seller for copies of the horses’ medical record, if available, and about any infectious disease on the seller’s farm. For example, horses that have had a Strep equi infection (aka “Strangles”), can be long term shedders of the bacteria or have hidden consequences of that disease.

If your new horse is not current on vaccines, it may be advisable to have them performed before transport, although you will need at least two weeks before they are significantly effective. Faster protection from influenza is possible through the use of a live intranasal vaccine.

If you will be transporting your horse with a commercial carrier, protection from respiratory disease is extra important, as your new horse may be exposed to many other travelling animals.

When your new horse arrives, quarantine for at least two weeks is recommended and monitor carefully for signs of cough, nasal discharge, poor appetite and diarrhea. When in doubt, reach for a thermometer to check for a fever and consult your veterinarian.

If your horse was not fully vaccinated, you can proceed with that once your horse is deemed healthy and has settled in its new environment.

Written by Bettina G Bobsien, BSA, DVM, Diplomate ABVP [Equine],