Last Wednesday was a particularly spectacular spring day. After some recent April showers, the sun was shining, the grass looked a few shades greener, and I couldn't wait to race out to the barn after work to hack Hannah and Lily. So when my trainer texted me that morning to say the veterinarian would be vaccinating all the horses, my immediate thought was, "Wait, does this mean I shouldn't ride them later?"

It pays to know how your individual horse reacts to different vaccines.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

She reassured me I could ride, and I remembered that, yes, I've lightly ridden my horses on their days of vaccination in the past. But still, who wants to risk triggering a vaccine reaction or making a horse sore just for the sake of getting a nice ride in?

Sure enough, the girls felt fine during our jaunt around the fields that evening. But I decided to give my vet, Laura Werner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, an associate at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, a call anyway to discuss riding post-vaccination.

She said that while, yes, plenty of people do ride their horses the same day as vaccination, it pays to know your horse's typical reaction to vaccines and perhaps take it easy for a day or two.

"Like people, all horses are going to be individually different about their shots and vaccines," Dr. Werner explained to me. "A lot of times there will be some soreness, especially at the injection site. Some horses will experience a mild fever or are just not quite feeling well the day of and/or after vaccines. So it's good to know each individual horse's reaction and any particular vaccine he typically reacts to."

Signs of reaction she suggested owners keep an eye out for include mild swelling or a small bump at the injection site, mild fever, or a horse that goes off his feed, doesn't feel well, or is slightly depressed. Some horses can even experience extreme vaccine reactions akin to an allergic response.

Dr. Werner said a horse's ability to exercise post-vaccination also depends on the individual vaccine manufacturer's recommendations and whether the shot was administered in the neck or hamstring muscles (which might cause more soreness).

And keep in mind there are rules about vaccinating and competition. The FEI, for instance, forbids showing within seven days of vaccination.

Dr. Werner believes rules like this are definitely warranted: "I had to get rabies vaccines recently, and I felt pretty crappy for a day or two," she told me. "I think we expect a lot from (our horses), so I don't think it's unrealistic to give them a day or two off after they're vaccinated."

Okay, so maybe the next time I'm hankering for some pony time on vaccination day, I'll just take them out for a nice graze instead.

What are your experiences and practices regarding riding post-vaccination?