Earlier this year, you all got to see picture after picture of cute baby horses. Around now, the first of those adorable foals is coming due for their first vaccines. And that’s where the fun begins! A 3-9 month foal is a whole lot like a 10 year old kid. Still pretty cute, but beginning to assert their opinions on the world.
Foals and Germs
When your foal was born, my Docs came out to do a Well Baby check in the first 24 hours. Part of that check was a blood draw to test for something called IgG. This test told them if they got enough of that very important first milk, or colostrum, to provide them with germ-fighting immunity. That IgG works for about 4-5 months, at which time those foals need vaccines to prepare them to fight the bugs of the world on their own.
Encephalitis vaccines are INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT at this age! Be a smart human, and get those foals vaccinated! We see West Nile and Eastern Encephalitis every month of the year in Florida. Un-vaccinated foals (and yearlings) are the most vulnerable to these deadly viruses. Beginning at 5 months of age if mom was well-vaccinated, or 3-4 months if she wasn’t, foals get a two to three shot series of the encephalitis vaccines. If your mom wasn’t well-vaccinated, you get an extra booster in there. Along with the encephalitis vaccines, foals also get rhinopneumonitis, influenza, and rabies. For a whole lot of very complicated reasons, the 3-9 month age is the most important time to vaccinate for rhinopneumonitis.
Foals and Worms
Worms love foals more than encephalitis. The good news is this is a relatively easy problem to solve. Foals get all the same worms as adults, along with a special young horse bonus one called an ascarid. Ascarids are the grossest, nastiest worms you’ve ever seen. I included a picture just because I can, and they’re pretty gross. Ascarids also think Ivermectin is candy. So here’s our recommended foal deworming schedule for your convenience:
- 90 days old- use pyrantel pamoate
- 5 months old- use ivermectin
- 7 months old- use fenbendazole or oxibendazole
- 9 months old-use ivermectin
- 11 months old-use pyrantel pamoate
- 13 months old- use ivermectin
- 15 months old- use fenbendazole
- 17 months old- get a fecal egg count, they’re old enough to start fighting those worms themselves
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be not halter broke!
All that discussion about vaccines and deworming was a lengthy preamble for this section. Teach your foal how to be a good citizen starting the day after they’re born! Put a halter on, take it off, repeat about a bajillion times. Teach them how to lead. Teach them about boundaries. Just like pre-teen humans, pre-teen foals test the boundaries of what’s allowed (and your patience). Teaching them that the crazy humans are going to ask you to do some weird stuff, but are never going to hurt you, makes adulting easier.
Foals at 4-5 months of age are usually too big for my techs and Docs to hold up off the ground like they can the newborns. However, if they are halter broke, they can start to train them that while shots are a moment of needle prick, they come with scratches, a treat, and a whole lot of rewards. You see, my whole team of Springhill Equine minions, I mean staff, work hard to teach horses that visits from the veterinarian are fun. They start that process from the very beginning. Having a halter broke baby makes it easy-peazy. Having to start by introducing the 500 pound foal to a halter does not make it easy!
With a little help, we can all make those tough pre-teen months a little easier. Now the teenage years….That’s an exercise in patience, just like it is with the humans. Until next week, may your litter box be clean and your food bowl full!