Want to Avoid Vaccine Reactions? Your Horse Does.

Here in Arizona the days are getting shorter, despite daytime temps remaining in the high 90s. For most barns, that means it’s time for the vet to come administer fall vaccinations or for more intrepid owners to buy their vaccines and do a round of “poke the pony.”

A couple of decades ago, when I was still a very traditional horse owner and mainstream trainer/instructor, I was all about making the semi-annual routine simple and financially accessible for everyone. Five-way shots? Sure. Eight-way? Even better. Vaccinate horses when they’re cooled out and calm, give them a day off in case they feel a little lethargic and then right on with the training routine.

That protocol worked just fine for me and for my horses. I only ever had one horse show a a negative reaction in all the years I vaccinated for myself and my clients, and that was a small bump that cleared up in a couple of days.

So, when a veterinarian I knew well and trusted suggested to me that maybe horses were being over-vaccinated and all those shots weren’t necessary, I was skeptical. I was, however, just starting to learn a bit about more holistic approaches to horse-keeping, so the topic stuck in my head and rattled around while I was learning about herbs and bodywork and vibrational medicine and homeopathy.

Many years later, I worked with a group of horses that did have a problem with shot reactions following fall shots with a Ft. Dodge multi-vaccine. By that time I had a completely different outlook on the issue. It was completely unacceptable to me that after routine fall shots fully a third of the herd had hard, hot swellings on their necks, stiff necks and clearly felt lousy.

Turned out these horses  had a history of reactions at both the spring and fall shot times. Now, another vet had warned me off Ft. Dodge products, so I knew that was a possible cause. But multiple horses with big sore lumps on their necks twice a year seemed excessive to me, even though the administering vet just shrugged it off and suggested the whole herd be given bute before the next routine vaccinations.

Well, that made no sense to me at all. So, as soon as all the bumps had been iced and gently exercised away, the whole herd got dosed with the homeopathic remedy Thuja Occidentalis. They also got thuja the day before and day of their next vaccinations. Same vet. Same vaccines. Zero reactions. Same protocol all the rest of the time I interacted with that group of horses and never another swollen or sore neck at shot time.

Am I 100-percent certain there was a direct correlation between using the homeopathic remedy and the different outcome? Nope. But I’m sure enough that I’ve used the same protocol again. My own horses only get a few select vaccines every few years, but they always get a dose of thuja just before.

Am I saying you should change your vaccination practice or schedule. Nope. I’m not a vet and I can’t give that kind of advice even if I thought it was my place to do so.

All I’m doing is providing some information that might rattle around in your head as you’re making decisions for the health and welfare of your own horses.

Want to learn more about vaccine issues and using homeopathic remedies to keep your horse healthy and happy? Madalyn Ward, DVM, has articles and a very informative forum you can read.

Wondering what remedies to keep on hand for emergencies? Here’s a good article describing 10 useful homeopathic remedies for your barn med kit.