Rabies is pretty rare in horses, but there have been a few reports this summer. Though rare, rabies is still a major concern because it’s invariably fatal in horses, and almost always fatal in people.
Rabies was recently diagnosed in a horse in Eddy County, New Mexico. It started showing undefined signs of rabies and was euthanized two days later. Several people who worked with the horse are undergoing post-exposure treatment.
While rabies can potentially be spread from horses to people, I’m not aware of any confirmed cases of such transmission. Since rabies usually kills people, even a plausible risk is cause for concern. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, rabid horses can be very dangerous, and multiple people have been killed by aggressive rabid horses.
Rabies should be a core component of a horse’s vaccination program in any part of the world where rabies is present in the wildlife population. Unfortunately, that’s not always understood. One area resident stated she’d never heard of rabies in horses, and while she has her dogs and cats vaccinated, she hasn’t vaccinated her livestock. No vaccine is 100% preventative, but rabies vaccination is a cheap and very effective way to reduce the risk of this fatal disease significantly.