30 OklahomaHorses • January/February 2022 During a spring wellness exam, your veterinarian should also administer vaccina- tions. The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends that all horses receive a five-way vaccine at minimum. The vaccine protects against eastern and western equine encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE), tetanus, and West Nile virus (WNV). Vaccines that protect against diseases such as equine influenza virus (EIV), equine herpesvirus (EHV-1/4, rhinopneu- monitis), equine viral arteritis (EVA), stran- gles, leptospirosis, Potomac horse fever, and botulism fall into the risk-based catego- ry, and your veterinarian can help you determine which vaccines are worth the investment. Equine influenza and equine herpesvirsus are both highly contagious and usually are contracted when horses come into contact at a common venue such as an arena for a barrel race. Developing a vaccination protocol with your veterinarian based around your horses’ travel schedule will be vital for protecting them while out on the road. “In Oklahoma, it’s really important that horses out in the pasture also get a yearly rabies vaccine,” Brewer said. “At our clinic, we charge $10 for it. If a horse gets rabies, it’s untreatable. So it’s a very cheap insur- ance policy if they get bitten by anything out there.” Pasture Protocol New growth in the pasture is a sure-fire sign that spring has officially sprung. But it can also be a cause for concern for horses who are prone to laminitis and colic. Grad- ual introduction to fresh grass in the spring is an easy management practice that can help to prevent those common problems. Even though water consumption is a concern mainly in hotter months, it should be monitored in spring also. Fluctuating temperatures can impact how much a horse will or will not drink. “A horse has more than 100 feet of gut, so it’s very easy for things to get backed up quickly,” Brewer said. “Having salt or electrolytes available can help encourage a horse to drink, stay hydrated, and keep things moving.” Brewer cautions horse owners about adding electrolytes directly to the water. If there isn’t a secondary source of fresh water, horses can end up getting dehydrated if their only water source is full of electro- lytes. Blanketing can also be a challenge in spring when temperatures fluctuate dras- tically, especially in horses who live in the pasture. Overuse of blanketing can lead to skin conditions. “Keeping blankets on for those cool spring mornings can cause some fungus and mildew buildup because everything ends up being wet,” Brewer said. “Being diligent about taking blankets off when it warms up will allow the skin and hair to dry out.” Ultimately, Brewer recommends that you ask your veterinarian if you see something about your horses that doesn’t look quite right. As with anything, prevention is key, but treatment as soon as possible is a close second. Other Considerations The ideal window for getting your horse up to date on vaccinations and a worming schedule is early spring, sometime in March or April, before the pastures start to really green up and the bugs start to fly. Getting your horses treated and vaccinated before spring has sprung will set up you and your herd for maximum protection. As the “creepy crawlies” become more prevalent, Brewer strongly recommends making sure your horses have some protec- tion against them as well. “I know it’s impossible to keep all the flies off your horses, but having some sort of fly spray or fly barrier (boots, sheets, etc.) on them or around them can help prevent extreme irritation down the road,” Brewer said. “Last year, the botflies were huge and so prevalent out in Oklahoma pastures. Horses without protection were eaten up by late summer and had allergic reactions to the bites.” Ticks were also prevalent last year. Brew- er saw several horses become severely head shy because of tick infestations in their ears. If your horses are kept in pasture and around trees, they will be exposed to a large number of ticks in springtime and summer. An over-the-counter tick treatment found at local feedstores can help prevent infesta- tions of ticks and other external parasites. “If you have questions about your horse, don’t be afraid to reach out to your vet,” Brewer advised. “We’re happy to help.” Spring Health Tips for Horses 1. Schedule spring wellness exams in March or April. 2. Perform a fecal flotation on at least one of your horses to help you and your veterinarian develop an effective deworming protocol. 3. Ask your veterinarian to check your horses’ teeth and decide when they will need to be floated next. 4. At minimum, give your horse the five-way vaccine and a rabies booster. 5. Provide fly and tick protection to keep your horse comfortable. 6. Keep an eye on your horse’s skin and hair condition and water intake. 7. Be conservative about introducing fresh grass too quickly. 8. When in doubt, give your veterinarian a call. Comprehensive spring medical exams for horses will include vaccinations.