Mandatory vaccination for horses entering shows, other events and sales has been a surprisingly contentious issue for years. Some groups have required equine influenza vaccination for a long time, and it’s an accepted measure. Attempts to mandate vaccination for some other groups or events have often been met with resistance, even when those attempts were made after major disease outbreaks. Among the main arguments against vaccination requirements are:

  • Domesticated 0226It’s expensive: However, in the grand scheme, it’s a miniscule amount of the cost of raising a horse. Most of the time, the gas to get to an event probably costs more than the vaccine.
  • It doesn’t work: No vaccine is 100% effective, but flu vaccines are reasonably good, especially when applied at the population level. By that I mean that when you have a large percentage of the population vaccinated, you decrease the risk of virus transmission and help protect horses that are unvaccinated or didn’t respond to the vaccine.  (This is also called “herd immunity.”)

Often, it’s really just resistance to change that drives opposition.

However, the US Equestrian Federation (USEF) has just announced a new mandatory vaccination policy. As of December 1, 2015, all horses entering a USEF show must have been vaccinated against equine influenza and equine herpesvirus in the past 6 months.

As reported by, “This rule change and uniformity of rules is going to help us not only better protect our horses against infectious upper respiratory diseases, but it also will improve the welfare of these show horses,” [Chair of the USEF veterinary committee, Dr Kent] Allen said. “It is important for every owner, as well as the entire USEF organization to ensure that each horse is adequately protected through appropriate vaccination.”

“The bottom line is your horse must be current on the equine influenza and equine herpesvirus vaccines by 1 Dec 2015,” he said. “If you maintain this vaccination schedule and obtain appropriate documentation, you will not only comply with the rule, but you also will ensure your horse is adequately protected against these highly contagious respiratory diseases.”

Hopefully other organizations will follow. I’m sure there’ll be lots of complaints, but that’s the nature of progress.