Advice & Tips

Exporting Your Horse

Whether you are off for a race in Dubai, eventing in Kentucky or simply moving home to France, we can help you every step of the way with our helpful guide of what you will need to do.

First of all you need to consider whether you will be flying, using the train or transporting your horse by water and contact some transportation companies for quotes.  They should also be able to offer additional guidance on procedures and preparation.  Also check your horse insurance will cover the trip and that your transporter is properly covered.

If competing, check with your competition federation such as the FEI on rules surrounding vaccines and immunizations and permitted drugs as well as the need for quarantine which varies from country to country.

Your destination country’s government website should also hold some helpful information on what documentation your horse will need to have traveling with it and when it arrives.

Always keep in mind timings, these can be very strict and difficult to adhere to if you do not prepare well in advance. Some vaccines need to be administered months in advance for example and quarantine can also be time consuming and costly.  If you are competing you will need to also think of your horses fitness and recovery time.

For Travel within the EU all that is needed is an intra trade certificate that needs to be applied for through DEFRA – – they then notify us and we come out and do the health certificate within 48 hours of travel.

For travel outside of the EU every country is different but a lot more notice is often needed as vaccinations, bloods and/or swabs and other treatments are needed with a specific time frame – your export company should be able to liaise with us and arrange these for you to ensure it is done correctly as even if your horse is aloud out of the UK without the correct testing and documentation it may not be allowed into its destination.

If you are unsure of the veterinary requirements, why not give us a call and see if we can assist.  We often assist with the transportation of horses around the world and would be happy to help.

Horse Vaccines: When and Why

We recommend that all horses are vaccinated to protect against Tetanus, Influenza, and the Herpes Virus. Below is a brief description of the diseases and their recommended vaccination regime:


Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacteria, that produces a toxin that attacks the nervous system of the horse leading to neurological signs in the horse which tend to be fatal.

Protection is achieved by two primary vaccinations approximately 1-2 months apart, followed by a third a year later. Boosters are required 18-24 months thereafter.


Influenza is caused by a virus. Signs exhibited by a horse with influenza can be high temperature and respiratory signs. Horses generally required long periods of rest due to the damaging effects on the lungs.

The primary course is 3 vaccinations: The interval between the 1st and 2nd shot are 3 weeks-3months and the interval between the 2nd and 3rd shot is 5-7 months. Boosters are required annually within 12 months. Note: Competitions under FEI regulations requires horses to be vaccinated on a 6 monthly basis.


This infection is caused by the herpes virus. There are several types of herpes virus but the most common type causes respiratory infection. Other types can cause abortion and paralysis in horses.

The recommended regime is 2 vaccinations 4 weeks apart and then a booster every 6 months. A separate protocol is required for pregnant mares.

If you need some more guidance on vaccines, please do give us a call.

Top Ten Equine ‘Strangles’ Guidelines

1. If you think your horse may have Strangles and need advice?

Call the practice on 01306 627 706. We will be able to offer some guidance and arrange for one of our vets to make a visit.

2. What causes ‘Strangles’?

Strangles is a highly contagious infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract. Strangles is caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus equi (S.equi) and affects horses, ponies and donkeys.

3. What are the main clinical signs?

• Depression and dullness
• Loss of appetite
• Nasal discharge
• Development of a cough
• High temperature
• Swelling of the lymph nodes (glands) under the jaw or on the head or neck which can lead to abscess formation at a later stage

The abscesses which cause the lymph nodes to swell may burst discharging highly infectious, creamy-yellow pus. In some cases the glands swell so much they restrict the airway, hence the name strangles.

4. What is the incubation period / when will I first see symptoms?

The incubation period of strangles is on average 7 to 14 days. However, because infected horses can shed the bacterium for long periods after symptoms have stopped showing, the interval of time between new cases in an outbreak can be up to 3 weeks or more.

5. How is it transmitted / passed between horses?

Strangles can be spread easily by direct contact between horses or indirectly by handlers, equipment or contamination of the environment. This can lead to large outbreaks with many horses becoming infected if strict biosecurity measures are not put in place and adhered to. For example, the infection can be spread:

• by direct contact such as nose to nose contact between horses
• via equipment shared with infected horses, such as:
• water troughs where the bacterium can survive for long periods
• feed buckets
• grooming equipment
• tack / clothing

6. How long can items such as grooming kits and buckets harbor the disease for?

On water buckets in particular, the bacteria can live for long periods, and up to approximately one month. However, using proper anti-bacterial cleaners such as Virkon will kill the bacteria quickly.

7. What can you use to clean your items to kill the Strangles?

Most anti-bacterial cleaners will be effective at killing Strangles. We have had success with Virkon which can be found here:

8. How is it diagnosed?

There are three main methods of diagnosis:

a) Swabbing is where three consecutive swabs are taken at weekly intervals and sent for testing in a lab.

b) Testing via endoscopy has been said to be the most reliable method. A sample is taken directly from the guttural pouch in the throat and sent for testing. This can also determine whether a horse is a carrier or not.

c) Blood tests identify if a horse has antibodies to the Strangles bacteria in their bloodstream. Antibodies are produced approximately two weeks following exposure to the bacteria and last up to six months.

Horses that have been exposed to the bacteria in the last six months will test positive.

9. What is the treatment and is there anything else I should be concerned about?

Treatment is a largely debated subject. Some say the bacteria should be left to run its course on its own without treatment, some say it should be treated aggressively with penicillin. This will be a joint decision with you as an owner and your vet.

There is a second form of Strangles called ‘purpura haemorrhagica’ which is associated with a previous bout of strangles. The head, legs and underbelly of the horse are most often affected and it also causes bleeding into the skin, gums (seen as areas of red spotting) and organs such as the lungs. It can prove fatal within a very short period of time and therefore an exceptionally quick diagnosis is very important.

A third form of Strangles also exists known as Bastard Strangles which can be a complication from the initial infection. It can be seen in the abdominal or lung lymph nodes which may develop abscesses and rupture, sometimes weeks or longer after the first infection seems to have resolved. In severe cases abscesses may rupture in the brain causing sudden death or abscess may burst in the throat and the pus will be inhaled into the lung.

10. How long will it take to recover?

On average the standard form of Strangles can take ten to fourteen days to run its course without drug intervention, this depends on the severity of the case and the general health of the horse at the time of infection. It should however be kept in mind that the bacteria may continue to shed after symptoms have left and therefore testing on more than one occasion after symptoms have gone is recommended.

Other queries?

Please call the practice and we would be happy to help.

Please also review the HBLB Strangles guidelines in the Codes of Practice ( and Strategy To Eradicate and Prevent Strangles (STEPS at

This guide is for information purposes only, if you suspect your horse may have strangles please call the practice and arrange a visit from a vet. The opinions presented in the Guidelines are subject to change and should not be considered to be a treatment recommendation for any individual patient. We cannot attest to the accuracy, completeness or currency of the opinions contained herein and does not accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage caused to any patient or any third party as a result of any reliance being placed on these Guidelines or as a result of any inaccurate or misleading opinion contained in the Guidelines.

Gastric Ulcers

Gastric Ulcers

Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) is an incredibly common disease of horses, particularly for those in training.  There are two main classifications, squamous ulcers caused by excess acid exposure and glandular ulcers which are less well understood.

Risk factors for EGUS

  • Transportation
  • Stress
  • Intermittent feeding
  • Racing/ competition
  • Intense training
  • Large amounts of concentrate feed
  • Illness
  • Stable confinement

Symptoms of gastric ulcers

There a large number of possible symptoms of gastric ulcers, these are a few of the more common ones:

  • Poor coat
  • Colic- particularly immediately after eating
  • Poor body condition
  • Poor appetite
  • Poor performance
  • Change in behaviour
  • Girthing pain
  • Chronic diarrhoea


The most accurate and useful method of diagnosis is gastroscopy. Gastroscopy provides a visual assessment of the ulcers, allowing a suitable treatment plan to be designed and for progress to be monitored.

We have a portable gastroscope that we can bring to your horse, saving the stress of transporting them to a clinic.


Omeprazole is currently the only licensed medication for the treatment of ulcers in the UK. Luckily it is usually very effective if a reliable formulation is used.  There are a few other adjunctive treatments available which are discussed in the gastric ulcer blog post on our website.


Recurrence of ulcers is very common, particularly in horses in intensive training or competition. Low doses of omeprazole have shown to help prevent the recurrence of ulcers in these horses.

Proper management can reduce recurrence, constant access to forage, regular turnout, giving a small forage feed 30 minutes prior to exercise and allowing your horse to express normal behaviours have all been shown to help prevent ulcers.

If you have any questions about gastric ulcers or your horses’ health please call us.



Colts are generally castrated for ease of management. The main concern in any scenario is the risk of unwanted coverings, resulting in the pregnancy of young mares, or competition horses not intend for breeding at that time. Most intact colts are difficult to keep in company with other mares, geldings or stallions, especially as they get older and the male hormones increase. They can become difficult to handle, and in some cases become dangerous to handlers and other horses around them. Occasionally some of these dangerous traits do not all disappear after castration, as they become learned, so we often encourage castration before these behaviours are learned, to reduce the risk of them remaining.

People often worry about the loss of breeding potential, should their horse turn out to be a high achiever. In most cases I believe the horse would have never achieved such high achievements if remaining intact, and being constantly distracted by the sights and smells of other horses around them.


At Shotter and Byers we aim to perform as many castrations standing, under heavy sedation and local anaesthetic as possible. This method reduces the cost, the time taken and the risk of a general anaesthetic to the horse. The other method, under a general anaesthetic is useful in very small ponies where simply getting in under the abdomen while the pony is standing is impossible, or where a very fractious horse means standing sedation remains too dangerous for the surgeon. There are many factors to consider when making this choice, and they are best discussed with one of our vets when they arrive at the castration.


A colt can be castrated at any age, as long as both testicles are descended sufficiently. There is a body of opinion that castration should be left as late as possible, in order to allow the horse to ‘mature’. However there is no evidence that foals left entire develop any differently from those castrated early. Indeed, on the continent it is common place for colt foals unsuitable to be kept for breeding purposes to be castrated when still suckling from the mare. There is evidence to suggest that those foals castrated at such a young age recover from the operation faster and with fewer complications than their older counterparts.


Colts can be castrated at any time of year; however they should ideally be castrated either in the spring or autumn, in order to avoid the flies and heat of the summer and the deep mud of winter, both of which can increase the risk of post-operative complications. We like to organise castrations for the morning time if possible, so the horse can wake up and be monitored through the afternoon, and any required checks or follow-ups can be done by the vet during normal hours.


If possible, and if safe to do so, it is best to visualise, if not indeed feel two testicles in the scrotum, before booking castration, so as to confirm the surgery is possible. All our vets will do this before being the procedure anyway, but it is best to check in advance. On the day of the procedure we prefer a well-lit, dry and clean straw bedded quiet stable if possible. This is because shavings, sawdust or chopped straw all makes its way into a wound easier, and is best avoided if possible. Castration can be performed outside in a yard or a field if necessary. The only other things the vet will want are a bucket of warm clean water, and a competent handler for the horse.


Most horses will be turned out in a small paddock soon after surgery, depending on the size and age of the horse. The vet will confirm the plan at the time of castration. Complete box rest is not encouraged, as exercise will promote drainage and minimise swelling at the surgical site. The colt may be prescribed a short course of antibiotics and painkillers following surgery. It is best if your colt has received its primary course of tetanus vaccinations at least four weeks before the procedure, but if not, let the attending vet know, and tetanus anti-toxin will be given at the time of surgery. The surgical site will need to be inspected on a daily basis for rapid detection of any possible complications. If there are no post-operative complications the incisions should be completely healed within ten days.

A small amount of blood dripping from the wound in the first twenty-four hours after castration is normal, but if it ever exceeds a fast drip, please ring Shotter and Byer Practice, or the castrating vet immediately. A small amount of swelling after the procedure is also normal, the scrotum may return to the size it was pre-surgery for a few days, but this is normal, and will reduce over a few days if exercise levels are maintained. If swollen more than this, or anything is seen hanging from the incision site, please feel free to contact the vet direct, or please send a picture through to the vet for further advice.

Colt can remain fertile for up to two months after being gelded, so should not be turned out with mares for at least two months following castration.

If you are considering castrating a colt, please feel free to ring our practice, or one of our vets direct to discuss logistics, and costings in advance. We can get it organised and booked in to suit you.


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