Spring Fevers: Horse Health Concerns Shift with the Seasons

As the calendar turns, so do priorities to protect our horses from a long list of threats
Credit: Michael Wifall photo

You’ve checked your vaccination records, sterilized your trailer, received the new Coggins test. Your trainer is confident you’re read, your show clothes are back from the dry cleaners and you’re polished your tack. Your horse has even shed out most of his winter coat and lost a few pounds, thanks to the time you’ve been spending in the saddle. 

So why aren’t you headed to a show this weekend? 

Spring is the season when all the vectors of horse health seem to collide. Every horse owner on every level is reminded that it’s time for “spring shots” and a parasite check.

Your horse is shedding enough hair to stuff a sofa. The farrier needs to come to pull off the winter shoes. The paddock is a mud-and-manure morass. You can see your horse reaching over (or under) the fence to get the first tendrils of green grass, which means that fear-of-laminitis season can’t be far away.

Those are your problems if you’re “normal”. But what if you live in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where an Equine Herpes Virus outbreak is underway? Or in Tennessee, where horses have been identified with Equine Infectious Anemia?

And in Massachusetts, a horse was attacked in its stall by a rabid bobcat.

Suddenly, having horse hair all over your clothes, mud on your not-for-the-barn shoes and a late farrier don’t seem like such problems anymore.

Here’s a quick rundown of horse-health advice for the first week of spring:

Equine Herpes Virus in Minnesota

This video describes a 2012 outbreak of rabies in Florida that affected horses.

Rabies is never really news because rabies is always with us. It’s out there, in the wild animals. We occasionally hear about a skunk or a fox or a bat with rabies being a problem.

The problem comes when a rabid animal bites a human or a horse. Then it makes the news. 

The news in Massachusetts this month was bizarre. It wasn’t a small animal that had rabies, but a bobcat. And the bobcat attacked a horse in its stall at a farm in the town of the suburban town of Upton.

Town officials said that the horse barn was in a heavily wooded area. The story is especially poignant because the horse was both elderly and blind.

Local television station WCVB reported that the bobcat scratched the stall door, trying to get to the horse but that animal control officers arrived in time to shoot it before it could get to the horse. A press release from the town states that the bobcat did test positive for rabies.

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