How Often Do Horses Get Shots? Core And Risked-Based Vaccines

Last Updated on June 18, 2022

Annual vaccines are an important part of your horse’s health. It is important to understand how often do horses get shots. Vaccines are important to your horse’s overall well-being and are often required if you plan on traveling with your horse.

Most horses will have annual vaccines they get to protect them from certain diseases. In addition, horses may also get risked-based vaccines depending on their circumstances. It is important to talk it over with your veterinarian to see what vaccines your horse needs.

How Often Do Horses Get Shots?

In general, horses will get vaccinations every year. Typically, shots are administered in spring, as this provides the best protection for mosquito-borne illnesses. However, some vaccines may be administered during the fall.

Some shots, such as tetanus, EEE/WEE, and West Nile Virus are administered as a two-dose series initially before being given annually. Generally, two-dose series are given between three to six-week intervals, depending on the vaccination.

How Often Do Horses Get Shots

Horses will receive core vaccines annually and many horses will also receive risk-based vaccinations as well. Risk-based vaccinations are dependent on a horse’s age, health, location, and circumstance.

Core Vaccines

According to the AAEP, core vaccination for horses consist of rabies, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE), tetanus, and West Nile Virus. These four core vaccines should be administered to horses every year. They should be given regardless of age, gender and location.

Rabies – How Often Do Horses Get Shots?

Like most mammals, horses are susceptible to rabies. Not only is rabies fatal, but it is also a public safety issue. The rabies vaccine can help protect your horse from this terrible disease.


Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, or simply EEE/WEE, are life-threatening mosquito-borne illnesses.  They cause severe neurological problems in horses and can often be fatal. This vaccine is administered in the spring, as horses are most prone to catching EEE/WEE in the summer, and protects horses from this disease.


Though humans generally only need to get a tetanus shot every 10 years, horses need to get it annually. The bacterium that causes tetanus, Clostridium tetani, thrives in soil and can also be present in horses’ gastrointestinal tracts and manure. Due to the nature of barns, horses are regularly exposed to C. tetani.

Horse Health and Nutrition For Dummies

The bacterium that causes tetanus can contaminate wounds and produces a toxin that makes its way through a horse, which is often fatal. Annual tetanus shots can protect horses from C. tetani.

West Nile Virus

Another mosquito-borne illness, West Nile Virus can also be problematic for horses, though it is generally not as fatal. In some areas where the virus is particularly bad, veterinarians may administer the vaccine twice annually. Otherwise, the West Nile Virus vaccine is given as a spring shot.

Common Risk-Based Vaccines

Risked-based vaccines are given based on your horse’s location, health, and circumstance. Many show horses or horses that travel regularly will receive risk-based vaccines, as they are exposed to more horses from other areas.

Some of the most common risk-based vaccines include Equine Influenza, Strangles, Equines Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis), Potomac Horse Fever, and Botulism. However, there are also other risk-based vaccines that your veterinarian may administer to your horse depending on the circumstance.

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Another common vaccine is the strangles shot, which is also highly recommended for horses that travel. It is a highly contagious bacterial disease that is characterized by swelling of the lymph nodes along with the formation of abscesses, generally in the head and neck. Horses often have a high fever and will make hacking noises.

Equine Influenza

Though not a core vaccine, many people choose to get their horse vaccinated against equine influenza. Equine influenza is an acute respiratory disease caused by two distinct subtypes. It is highly contagious and the vaccine is recommended on a semi-annual basis for those who travel with their horses.

Equine Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis)

Equine Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis) can cause central-nervous-system disease, respiratory disease, and abortion. There are different variations of it and it can be transmitted through body fluids, including nasal secretions.

Potomac Horse Fever – How Often Do Horses Get Shots?

Potomac horse fever comes from the bacteria Ehrlichia risticii. It comes from complex aquatic ecosystems, with transmission occurring when horses accidentally ingest caddisflies, damselflies, dragonflies or stoneflies. It is a bacterial infection and the vaccine is given twice a year.


Pregnant mares and horses that consume large round hay bales or hay silage are generally recommended to get the botulism vaccine. The bacterium known as Clostridium botulinum produces botulism toxins that enter the horse’s body causing weakness and potentially paralysis.

Botulism Vaccine

Vaccine Reactions

It is very rare for a horse to have an adverse reaction to a vaccine. If any adverse reactions occur, they are likely to happen within 30 minutes of the horse receiving the shot.

Some horses may be slightly sore or stiff after receiving their spring shots. If this is the case, it is best to give your horse the day off from working or only lightly work them.

Keeping Your Horse Safe – How Often Do Horses Get Shots?

It is important to keep your horse safe from preventable diseases by vaccinating them annually. All horses should receive core vaccines, though many will also receive risk-based vaccines as well.

Do you have any questions regarding how often do horses get shots? If so, please ask any questions regarding equine vaccines in the comments.


How Often Does a Horse Need a Tetanus Shot?

A horse will get a tetanus shot annually and it is is recommended that every horse gets the vaccine as it is a core vaccine. The initial vaccine is given in a two-dose series at three to four-week intervals.

How Often Do Horses Need Hendra?

Horses vaccinated against Hendra are given two doses, three to six weeks apart, followed by a booster every six months. However, since it is spread from fruit bats to horses, you only need to vaccinate against it based on your location.

What Vaccines Do Horses Need Yearly?

Horses need the four core vaccines, rabies, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE), tetanus and West Nile Virus, every year. Horses may also receive annual or semi-annual risk-based vaccines based on their circumstances.

Do Horses Need Vaccinations Every Year?

Horses need the four core vaccines every year. The four core vaccines include rabies, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE), tetanus and West Nile Virus. Many horses will also get risked-based vaccines every year as well.