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Equine Services


Vaccination is a very important part of your horse’s annual health program and is an effective way to protect your horse from some potentially fatal equine infectious diseases. Vaccines either prevent or help reduce the severity of the clinical signs if your horse does contract a disease and will help reduce the spread of disease between animals.

In the UK, horses are commonly vaccinated against tetanus and equine influenza (Flu), but may also be vaccinated against:

  • Equine Herpes Virus (1 and 4)
  • Rota virus
  • Equine viral arthritis
  • West Nile virus

Tetanus ‘Lock Jaw’

Tetanus is caused by toxins released from a bacteria called Clostridium tetani. The bacteria, which is present in soil, usually enters the animal through wounds or through the gastrointestinal tract. Clinical signs include prolapse of the third eye lid, muscle spasms and hypersensitivity to stimuli.

All equines should be vaccinated against tetanus. The initial course comprises of two injections six weeks apart, which are often given along with an influenza vaccination. Booster vaccinations are given every two or three years.

Foals are given an injection of tetanus anti-toxin at birth which gives short lived protection until the foals immune system is able to respond to a vaccine. Foals may be vaccinated from five to six months of age. The vet may give your horse a tetanus anti toxin injection if it has a wound and is not vaccinated. This injection does not replace vaccination.

Equine Influenza

Equine influenza is a highly infectious viral disease that affects the respiratory tract of horses causing a high temperature, cough and snotty nose. Equine influenza spreads very rapidly through unvaccinated populations of horses (1-3 day incubation) and may require long periods of rest for recovery.

The recommended primary course of vaccination is:

  • 1st vaccination
  • 2nd vaccination four to six weeks after 1st
  • 3rd vaccination six months after 2nd

Following the primary course, horses should have a booster injection yearly.

We try to send reminders to everyone for the six-months and yearly vaccinations but it is solely the owners responsibility to ensure that vaccinations are given on time. Please check the rules and make a note on your calendar so you do not miss any of your competitions.

The rules of most competitive events require that participating horses are vaccinated in accordance with the jockey club rules:

  • Two vaccinations to be given not less than 21 and not more than 92 days apart (primary vaccination)
  • Third booster vaccination to be given between 150 and 215 days after the second part of the primary vaccination
  • Booster vaccinations to be given at no more than yearly intervals (on or before 365 days)
  • Horses may not enter a racecourse for seven days after any of these vaccinations

If your horse is taking part in competitions run under FEI rules, it requires a booster every six months (+/- 21 days).

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)

EHV 1 and 4 are associated with respiratory infections and abortion in horses. Clinical signs associated with respiratory infection are similar to those seen in flu and can cause horses to perform poorly or miss training. Many young race horses are vaccinated against this disease. Pregnant mares and in contact horses should be vaccinated to reduce the risk of Herpes associated abortion. Pregnant mares are usually vaccinated at five, seven and nine months of pregnancy.


Strangles is a bacterial respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Streptococcus Equi Equi. The signs of equine strangles include fever, nasal discharge and depression and abcesses can also develop around the head and neck. It is one of the most common equine respiratory infections in the world and can affect equines of all ages.

The disease causes major economic losses to the equine industry worldwide due to its prolonged course, extended recovery period and associated complications. Strangles can be fatal, but the major reason for its concern is the speed with which strangles spreads among horses, especially in a stable setting. In large horse populations, established outbreaks may last for months, essentially shutting down stabling premises. 
Some “recovered” horses (carriers) can harbour Streptococcus Equi Equi with no outward clinical signs. Consequently, new or recurrent outbreaks are likely unless costly diagnostic procedures and aggressive quarantine measures are used. A strangles vaccine has been developed which is given into the mucosa of the upper lip. Most horses tolerate this very well.

The primary course of vaccination is two vaccinations four weeks apart followed by a booster every six months, unless your horse is in a high risk situation where we may vaccinate every 3 months. Horses can be vaccinated from 4 months of age. You can find more information on the strangles vaccination here.

Rota Virus

Rota virus causes diarrhoea in young foals and vaccination of pregnant mares during pregnancy causes increased antibodies to be produced in the mare’s colostrum (first milk). These antibodies provide increased protection to the foal as long as it drinks the first milk.

Equine Viral Arthritis (EVA)

This is a viral disease that causes abortion in mares and so is of importance in breeding animals. It is not possible to differentiate between vaccinated and infected animals so horses have to be tested prior to vaccination. This vaccine is not commonly used in horses other than breeding stallions.

West Nile Virus

A vaccine against West Nile virus has recently become licensed for use in horses in the UK. West Nile disease is a virus that is spread by mosquitoes. It is endemic in Italy, Hungary and the USA. Clinical signs can be similar to those seen in flu and also a wide range of neurological signs. This disease can be fatal in horses and people so it is worthwhile vaccinating horses that are traveling abroad to affected areas to compete.


It is normal for your horse to carry a small parasite burden. This is necessary for normal regulation of the immune system. No program will or should totally eliminate your horse's worm burden.

Currently, the most important equine parasites are cyathostomes (small red worms) and tape worms. Cyathostomes spend part of their life cycle dormant in the hind gut and can remain there for several years. At this stage, drugs are relatively ineffective at killing the parasite.

Very few new worming drugs have become available in the last ten years and it is inevitable that eventually resistance will develop to the drugs that are currently on sale. Indeed, there are already reports in the literature of resistance to benzimidazoles and invermectin. To prolong the useful life of these drugs, it is important that they are used correctly. Each yard is different and you should discuss your individual requirements with your veterinary surgeon.

There are a couple of rules to follow that will help reduce the likelihood of resistance developing on your premises, and help maintain your horse's parasite burden at a healthy level:

  • All horses on the premises should follow the same program
  • All horses should be measured with a weight tape to obtain an accurate weight for dosing
  • Regular removal of droppings from the pasture will significantly reduce the parasite challenge to your horse
  • Co grazing with sheep and cattle will reduce the number of worm eggs on your pasture and pasture should not be overgrazed
  • New horses coming onto a yard should be wormed before turnout

Faecal worm egg counts and tape worm ELISAs are tests that give an indication of a horse's level of infection and should be performed on all horses within a group. Horses require to be dosed at certain times of the year with specific drugs. However, 20% of horses within a group will shed 80% of worms and so quarterly faecal worm egg counts (FWEC) can be used to determine which horses should be targeted for treatment during the remainder of the year. There is also an ELISA blood test that can be used yearly to detect evidence of tape worm infection. Faecal worm egg counts do not indicate the level of tape worm burden a horse may be carrying so this should be taken into account when planning a program for your horse.

It must be understood that FWEC do not detect encysted cyathostomes and as no reliable test exists for this parasite.

FWEC can be used to isolate horses within a group that are producing high numbers of eggs and these animals can be targeted with a suitable product whilst the other animals are left untreated, thus reducing the amount of wormer used and reducing the speed at which resistance is likely to occur.

Please contact us to discuss your horses individual needs.


Microchipping is widely accepted as a safe, effective and tamper proof method of identifying horses. Since 1999, it has been a requirement for all racing thoroughbred horses that are to be registered with Wetherbys and from July 2009, all foals have also required a microchip as well as a passport for identification.

Microchipping is a quick and simple procedure. The microchip is implanted in the nuchal ligament (the ligament running from the poll to the withers) on the left side of the neck in the same way that an intra muscular injection is given. It is not uncommon for a small amount of bleeding to occur from the injection site, but this can be easily stopped with pressure applied for a couple of minutes. Microchipping is an act of veterinary surgery and can only be carried out by veterinary surgeons or qualified veterinary nurses under veterinary supervision. Adverse reactions to microchips are very rare.

Once your horse has been microchipped, your details are held on a central register so you can be contacted if your horse is found missing or stolen. It is your responsibility to make sure that these details are always up to date.


Over the last decade, there has been a huge improvement in equine dental care with people becoming much more aware of the benefits of regular dental examinations for their horse.

These examinations should form part of your horses yearly health plan and are easy to include at the time of your vaccinations. At MBM Veterinary Group, we have a great interest in dental prathology and can deal with all categories of dental problems. You can read more about the different categories of dental procedures here.

Horses' teeth erupt from their gums throughout their life so they often develop sharp enamel edges on the teeth that can make them uncomfortable when eating and being ridden. Removing these edges once a year is usually appropriate for most horses. If your horse has a dental abnormality, we may recommend more regular treatments. Many horses require light sedation for dental treatment which allows the vet to perform a more thorough examination and treatment safely and with less stress for you and your horse. For more complicated procedures, we may ask that you bring your horse to the Kilmarnock clinic so we can work is a safe and controlled environment.

Some people use an equine dental technician rather than the vet to rasp their horse’s teeth. Anyone can call them self an equine dentist so if you choose to do this, please ensure you use a dental technician that is a member of the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians and are qualified and recognized by the British Equine Veterinary Association to show they can carry out the work competently. You can find a list of registered members here.

Pre-Purchase Examination

Buying a new horse is a very exciting prospect but before you buy, you should think carefully about what type of horse or pony you are looking for as well as its intended use.

When you have found what you hope to be your ideal horse, we strongly recommend a pre-purchase veterinary examination. Whilst this may seem costly, it may save you a lot of money in the future. A pre-purchase examination reduces the chance of buying a horse that may have health problems or become unsound in the future. If you choose to insure the horse, your insurance company may request the examination prior to insurance. Veterinarians have developed a general routine of examination recognized by BEVA (British Equine Veterinary Association), which has been found to be appropriate as a means of detecting signs of disease and injury.

The 5 Steps Examination

Stage 1 - Preliminary examination: This is a methodical examination of the animal's body to assess general appearance and condition. It includes examination of the teeth, the resting heart, the eyes by opthalmoscope, the skin, the limbs and feet, and flexion of the limb joints to reveal pain or limitation of movement.

Stage 2 - Trotting up: The animal is walked and trotted on hard, level ground in order to detect gross abnormalities of gait and action.

Stage 3 - Strenuous exercise: The animal is given sufficient strenuous exercise (1) make it breathe deeply and rapidly so that any unusual breathing sounds may be heard; (2)  increase the action of the heart so that abnormalities may be more easily detected; and (3) tire the animal so that strains or injuries may be revealed by stiffness or lameness after a period of rest.

Stage 4 - A period of rest: The horse is allowed to stand quietly for a period. During this time, the breathing and the heart are checked as they return to their resting levels.

Stage 5 - The second trot and foot examination: The horse is walked and trotted again, turned sharply and backed, in order to reveal abnormalities exacerbated by the strenuous exercise stage.

Although a pre-purchase examination may identify possible concerns for the future, it is not a guarantee, and should be viewed as a risk assessment.

If you would like to arrange a pre-purchase examination, carried out by one of our experienced veterinary surgeons, then please phone us to arrange a time and day.

We will require the following information when you book:

  • The name, age, breed, height, sex and colour of the horse to be examined, the intended use of the horse, and any specific concerns you may have
  • The full name, address and contact number of the current owner of the horse. We are unable to carry out pre-purchase examinations on horses that are already under the care of our practice, as it is deemed as a conflict of interest
  • The location of the vetting and directions to get there

Facilities required:

  • Dark stable to allow thorough examination of the horse's eyes
  • Hard, level trot up area (e.g a quiet road)
  • Tack, rider and an area suitable for strenuous exercise
  • Firm lunge area if possible (will require lunge rein)

Points to advise the vendor of:

  • The horse will need to be stabled overnight or at least three hours prior to examination
  • A blood sample is routinely taken
  • The relevant passport and any relevant vaccination cards are to be made available for the vet

For very young or unbroken horses, a two-stage vetting is available and may be more appropriate. This is a very limited examination and you will be required to sign and return a consent form before the vetting may proceed, confirming you understand the limitations.

Insemination Guide

Artificial insemination (A.I.) is a technique used to transfer appropriately processed semen from a stallion into the uterus of a mare at the correct stage of her oestrus cycle resulting in a single pregnancy.

A.I. has become a very popular technique in stud medicine (although it is not allowed in racing thoroughbreds) in some cases with significant advantages over natural service.

Prior to embarking on an A.I. program, it is important to weight up the pros and cons, breeding your mare can be expensive and does not always result in a live foal the following year.

With all breeding programs, it should be remembered that there is a risk to the mare both when carrying the foal and particularly at the time of foaling, but also during mating or when performing rectal examinations. For this reason, ideally, rectal examinations are performed at premises with stocks to restrain the mare. If these are not available it is possible the vet will sedate your mare or at least twitch her during the examination for the protection of themselves but also the mare.

Artificial insemination involves the use of:

  • Fresh semen
  • Chilled semen
  • Frozen semen

Fresh semen is usually used on studs and only lasts outside the horse for short periods of time. Chilled semen should be inseminated within 48 hours of collection and is chilled to 4 Cº and stored for shipping in a special container or commonly polystyrene boxes with a chill pack. Semen that is required to last longer than 48 hours is frozen in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196 Cº.

Poor quality semen can be an expensive and frustrating problem for all involved so it is worth ensuring that a vet or experienced stud technician is involved in collection of the semen and evaluating the semen prior to transport.

The success of the A.I. program is dependant on factors like the quality of the semen, the fertility status of the mare and the program used by the attending vet. Fertility with fresh and chilled semen is similar or slightly better than that using natural service with approximately 60% of mares becoming pregnant on the first cycle. Until recently, conception rates with frozen semen were less favourable but as experience with these techniques has improved so have conception rates.

Pre-breeding check

Prior to embarking on an A.I. program, it is important the mare is assessed for factors that may reduce fertility, such as poor vulval conformation. This will include an ultrasound examination of the uterus looking for uterine cysts, a vaginal examination checking the cervix for any abnormalities and an assessment of vulval conformation. A uterine swab and smear is also taken during early oestrus to check for evidence of infection.

Timing the insemination

A successful insemination resulting in pregnancy depends on placing the semen in the uterus at the correct stage of the mare’s cycle. This has to occur when the mare is in season and close to ovulation. Most mares have a 21 - 22 day cycle with oestrus (the receptive period) lasting three to six days. Some mares cycle year round, but most cycle between March and October with the cycles at the beginning and the end of the season being somewhat erratic. Some mares show clear signs of oestrus but in others it can be difficult to detect oestrus when there is no stallion present. For these mares, an injection can be given that will bring the mare into season.

Signs of Oestrus in the Mare

  • Squatting and frequent squirts of urine
  • Tail raising and adoption of a stance similar to urination but maintained for longer periods and without evidence of straining (the tail is usually held to one side)

Other signs are difficult to detect in the absence of a stallion, some mares with foals at foot may prove particularly difficult but the vet will be able to perform ultrasound and vaginal examination to determine if your mare is in season.

The oestrus cycles that occur early in the season and those towards the end of the season are less likely to result in pregnancy and are less consistent and so it is preferable to wait until the mare is cycling regularly before trying to inseminate your mare.

Chilled semen A.I.

It can be difficult to determine if your mare is in season in the absence of a stallion. We usually examine mares on a Friday, often giving them an injection to bring them into season. The mare will than be re-examined on the Monday to check she has come into season, to assess the size of the follicles on the ovaries and to perform her pre-breeding check including a swab and smear from the endometrial lining of the uterus to check for evidence of infection. The size of the follicles on the ovaries determines when the mare will require another examination, when we need to order semen and when we are likely to inseminate her.

Frozen semen

Frozen semen survives in the mare for a shorter period (approximately 12 hours) of time and as such the timing of insemination is more critical as the mare’s egg is only available for conception for about six hours. This makes frozen semen programs more time consuming and labour intensive and therefore a more expensive option. The conventional approach was therefore to scan the mare daily until she had a 3.5 cm follicle and then following injection of a drug to control the time of ovulation the mare was scanned a minimum of every six hours. This is just not possible outside a hospital setting and so more recently fixed time A.I. programs have been developed and has been reported to have similar conception rates to those, where mares have been inseminated with chilled semen.

Pregnancy Diagnosis

Transrectal ultrasound examination between days 14 and 16 following ovulation is the best method of determining pregnancy. This is the most appropriate time to examine the mare as multiple pregnancies may be detected and dealt with at this stage. After this time, the pregnancy becomes attached to the lining of the uterus and so it is much more difficult to deal with twins.

A further scan should be performed around 28 days before endometrial cup formation. This allows the vet to check again that there is not a twin pregnancy and to look for normal development (the heart beat should be visible by this stage).

It is advisable to check the pregnancy again around day 42.

If the mare is not pregnant on the first scan, then she should be back in season again imminently allowing the program to be repeated hopefully with a more favourable outcome.

Please contact the practice to discus the needs of your mare and for further information on A.I.

Insemination Packages

These are the prices for our AI packages at MBM Vets. They include the basic requirements for chilled or frozen AI. Please call us at the Kilmarnock Clinic to discuss your individual mare's requirements.

Packages do not include visit fees. All these procedures can be preformed at the clinic. Bringing your mare to the clinic is often a good way to reduce the overall costs as it means that you do not have a visit fee.

Pre-breeding Examination

All mares should undergo a pre-breeding examination prior to starting an artificial insemination (AI) package.

This includes:

  • Ultrasound and vaginal speculum examinations
  • Clitoral swab for CEM and blood sample for EIA and EVA (including lab fees)
  • Basic clinical examination
  • Discussion/advice

Package for Insemination with Chilled Semen

This includes:

  • Uterine swab and cytology (in house)
  • Ultrasound and vaginal speculum examinations to monitor for stage of cycle and impending ovulation (up to 5 scans)
  • Insemination
  • Assessment of semen
  • Basic drugs (Estrumate or equivalent and Chorulon/Ovuplant)
  • Post insemination checks for fluid accumulation and ovulation
  • Day 16 and day 28 pregnancy scans

This package may be suitable for mares managed from home or at stud. For those that are stabled a long way from the practice, are better examined in stocks or where the vet advises it may be appropriate to stable the mare at the clinic during her examinations, this will incur an eatra livery fee. Not included in the price of this package are visit fees, sedation, bacteriology fee, bloods for EVA and clitoral swabs for CEM and the price of treatments for endormetritis.

Frozen Semen Package

This includes:

  • Endometrial swab (cytology and bacteriology)
  • Ultrasound and speculum examination to ensure insemination at the best of time
  • Livery (4 days)
  • Basic drugs (Estrumate, Ovuplant.Chorulon, Oxytocin)
  • Insemination
  • Storage and assessment of semen
  • Post insemination checks of endoretritis
  • Day 16 and day 28 pregnancy scan

This package is for mares that are stabled at the Kilmarnock Clinic. Mares will have to stay at the clinic for a minimum of 3 days. This package does not include sedation, EVA bloods or clitoral swabs for CEM. The mare will also commonly require a visit prior to admittance to the clinic and as such will incur a visit fee.


Most of us are not set up for and do not wish to handle a stallion, so the majority of male equines are castrated to prevent the unwanted behavior that is associated with sexually mature, entire animals. Castration is a common procedure but it is not without complications, which are commonly exempt from cover by insurance, so think carefully before purchasing a colt.

Most colts are castrated at a young age but sometimes older stallions undergo the procedure. Sexually active males that are castrated will usually retain stallion like behaviour following surgery.

We try to castrate most animals in the spring or autumn to avoid the complications associated with flies and mud.

All castrations in this practice are done under general anaesthesia. It may be appropriate to do this at home on your property if facilities are suitable. In many instances, it will be preferable for this to be done at the surgery on a day patient basis. Anaesthesia always carries a risk in equines and though this is relatively low in young fit animals the possibility of complications (potentially fatal) is still present and should be appreciated. Please inform your insurance company prior to the date of surgery.

Requirements for geldings at home

  • Safe loose box of adequate size (at least 3m x 3m) for a 15.2 hh horse, there must be no sharp projections on the wall on which the horse might injure itself.
  • A deep clean straw bed to provide padding during anaesthesia, other types of bedding (shavings or saw dust) are not suitable.
  • The patient should have nothing to eat for 12 hours prior to surgery. Access to water should be allowed until 2 hours before.
  • A confident handler who may be asked to assist should be available.

If your vet suggests or if these conditions are not available, the operation should be done at our surgery.

For geldings done at home, a consent form will need to be signed before the procedure can go ahead. You can either return it to us prior to or have it available for the vet on the day of the procedure. You can download our consent form here or, when you phone the practice to book your horse in, we can post you one.

It is important that animals are able to be walked out following surgery so a clean area must be available for this and the animal should be trained to walk in a halter. This should be done at least twice a day. Training is particularly important in donkeys that often are not halter trained.

The incision sites should be monitored following surgery. If anything is protruding from the wound, please phone and speak to a vet immediately. There will often be a small amount of bleeding from the incision sites and this is okay as long as you can count the drips. If there is excessive bleeding or you are in any doubt, please phone and discuss it with one of our vets. There will usually be some localized swelling around the incision site for a few days following surgery but if does not resolve or is excessive with discharg,e the horse should be re-examined. Your horse should be bright and willing to move around freely at all times. If you are in any doubt, please phone for advice.

In most instances, horses can be turned out within a couple of days of surgery. Your vet will advise you at the time. Your vet will also advise you on any further medication your horse may need over the days following the procedure.

Horse Passports

The horse Passports (Scotland) Regulations 2005 states that all equidae, regardless of age or status, requires an identification passport. Foals should have a passport by six months of age or the end of December in the year in which it was born, whichever comes later.

Without being accompanied by a valid passport, it is illegal to:

  • Sell
  • Export
  • Slaughter for human consumption
  • Use for the purpose of competition
  • Use for the purpose of breeding
  • Move a horse to the premises of a new keeper

Your horse or donkey should have a passport even if it never leaves the field.

The purpose of the passport is to ensure that horses treated using medicines not licensed for use in food producing species cannot be slaughtered for human consumption. Some medicines commonly used in equine practice, including Danilon, Equipalazone (Bute) and Sedalin, may be harmful to human health if your horse enters the food chain at the end of its life.

All passports should contain section IX which includes a statement that includes or permanently excludes the animal from slaughter for human consumption. The majority of horse owners have no intention of their pet being slaughtered for human consumption and in this case, the simplest measure to take is to sign the statement permanently excluding the horse from the food chain. If this statement is not signed, drugs like Danilon and Sedalin cannot be used and you must keep a drug book recording all medicines given to the animal.

Please present your passport each time the vet visits your horse or donkey.

When you purchase a new horse, you should contact the passport issuing organisation to arrange change of ownership within 30 days.

When a horse dies or is euthanased, the passport should be returned to the passport issuing organisation. If your horse does not have a passport, please contact the practice as soon as possible for advice.

For frequently asked questions and answers about equine passports, please visit the Scottish Government's page on Horse Passports.


When to make the decision

Many owners ask for guidance about how they can recognize that their horse’s welfare has deteriorated to such an extent that euthanasia is required. Not many horses die naturally, as horses live longer it is common that their condition deteriorates to a stage where it is necessary to euthanase them to prevent suffering.

The following guidelines may be of assistance, but each case does require individual assessment. Your vet can help you making the choice.

Conditions that may require euthanasia include


  • A complete long bone fracture above the knee or hock
  • Collapse of the tendons in both fore or both hind limbs
  • An open (compound) fracture below the knee or hock
  • Severe colic where surgical correction is not practical

Old age or infirmity:

  • Gets cast frequently in box or at pasture
  • Requires assistance to rise
  • Development of sores over pressure points such as elbows or over the pelvis
  • Severe weight loss such as there is no fat covering
  • Loss of majority of teeth, making eating difficult
  • Severe lameness not alleviated by pain killers or appropriate treatment
  • Severe ongoing laminitis that is not responsive to treatment
  • For reasons of age, unable to interact with other horses in the group, possibly being bullied


It is best when dealing with an old horse nearing its end to plan in advance. It is better for the welfare of the horse for it to be humanely destroyed before its situation becomes critical.

Traditionally, horses have always been put down by a ‘free’ bullet from a firearm. Although this is instantaneous and highly effective many owners find the process unnecessarily distressing due to the noise and potential for bleeding afterwards. The practice generally performs euthanasia by injection, giving an overdose of an anaesthetic like drug. Most owners find this a more acceptable method of humane destruction. Veterinary surgeons are not permitted to routinely carry firearms in their cars. You can contact Greyshill to arrange euthanasia of horses using a captive bolt if preferred. Please discuss these options with your vet.

After Euthanasia

Burying your horse at home is possible if it is a pet but must be away from water ways. Arrangements can be made for uplift and disposal with Robbie Hunter or Grayshill. Cremation options are available please contact us at the practice for further information and advise. 

Robbie Hunter 07821159333
Grayshill 01236 823138

Payment is expected before or at the time of these services.