Participation in equine events is the goal of most horse owners. Traveling to a distant state for a high level competition, you will need to do some advanced planning. In Missouri it is your legal responsibility to have a current Coggins test and if you are crossing state lines you will also need to have a health certificate. Coggins tests are testing for exposure to the disease Equine Infectious Anemia. This is a federal test that normally takes about a week to obtain. A health certificate is a testimony by your veterinarian that your horse is free from infectious disease and able to participate in public events, including transport on state and federal highways.
In addition, if you are assembling in an area with a large group of horses you increase your risk of exposure to disease. A quick review of your horse’s vaccination status is recommended. If you are traveling to the east coast, and you have not vaccinated for Potomac Horse Fever, you may want to consider doing so or at least discussing the issue with your veterinarian. In Missouri exposure to Potomac Horse Fever is very rare, however if you to the Eminence area we advise that your horse be vaccinated as a precaution. In some states it is common to vaccinate for Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis, and though it is rare in this country, you may run across questions about your status. We do not vaccinate for this disease in our area, however vaccine is available with this strain. In recent years the emergence of a more virulent strain of strangles has created a concern that must be considered. If you will be exposed to other horses you may want to consider the intra-nasal strangles vaccine. As with most vaccines, this will require a second booster in three weeks and protective immunity will not be attained for two or more weeks after this second dose.
Horses at shows are at greater risk for developing respiratory tract infections because there are so many horses congregating from so many different places. Two common respiratory tract infections are rhinopneumonitis (commonly shortened to “rhino”) and influenza. Horses are usually vaccinated against these viruses, but the duration of immunity is brief. Horses that are showing heavily and frequently exposed to a lot of other horses should be vaccinated more frequently than horses kept in the backyard. We recommend vaccinating show horses every three months.
You can also decrease your horse’s risk for developing a respiratory tract infection by using some common sense to try to limit your horse’s exposure and occasionally by doing something to boost the horse’s immune system. The immune system can be boosted by giving Eqstim, a series of immunostimulant injections, prior to the show. At the show, you can reduce the horse’s risk by not allowing people to touch your horse after touching other horses from other barns. Keep your horse’s food and water buckets separate from others. When filling the water bucket, do not dip the end of the hose in the bucket. Do not turn your horse out or graze your horse in areas used by other horses.
Some horses at the show or in training become very stressed. They may eat their food poorly, be colicky, perform poorly, have a bad attitude, or grind their teeth. Over time (like over a show season), these horses can lose weight and develop a poor haircoat. Many of these horses have gastric ulcers which can be demonstrated with an endoscopic examination of the stomach. Horses like this can be successfully treated with omeprazole (Gastrogard and Ulcergard) and then often need to be maintained during the show season on Gastrogard or Ulcergard. If you suspect your horse may have gastric ulcers, please contact your veterinarian.
There are many health concerns for show horses. Please discuss your horse’s show schedule with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action to keep your horse as healthy and as competitive as possible for the show season.
Good luck at the show!