“The horse had a history of bad shipping, and he looked otherwise healthy and had a temperature of 102.1,” said Skinner. “We turned him away, and all the horses from his barn had to leave. It turns out he had bronchitis. The vets felt confident that because he had actually been at the show the week before and had gone home and hadn’t had any contact with the cutting horses, chances were very slim it was an infected horse.”
The veterinarians at Littleton already have plenty of experience implementing veterinary protocols at the Colorado Horse Park. They implemented successful protocols during the 1998 vesicular stomatitis outbreak during the North American Young Riders Championship held at the park.
“It was a hard decision to make,” said Swanson. “No system is perfect in preventing the spread of disease. My colleagues and I elected this approach based on what we knew, and we felt confident we could implement effective protocols. We had a controlled population of horses on the show grounds, and they hadn’t been around the horses from Utah. We made sure the horses coming back to the show grounds hadn’t been in contact with those horses.”
Because EHV-1 is an endemic disease, it’s not reportable on a national level. While the outbreak is being managed on a state-to-state basis, the USDA steps in when cases involve multiple states or the movement of horses across state lines. The American Horse Council and American Association of Equine Practitioners asked the USDA to compile a national report. They released a comprehensive situation report on May 19 that details the current information by affected state.
“They did a phenomenal job putting together this report in a timely way,” said Dudley Hoskins, director of health and regulatory affairs for the American Horse Council. “We were seeing so much misinformation out there, and we wanted their help. The USDA did a great job getting boots on the ground, compiling these reports and working to mitigate [the] effects [of this disease].”
The USEF staff have not ordered the cancellation of member competitions, and as of May 24 they do not anticipate that the outbreak will affect any national championships or qualifying competitions.
“We’re advising competitions to follow the recommendations made by their respective state veterinarians and state animal heath departments,” said USEF senior vice president of marketing and communications Kathy Meyer. “People need to make informed decisions based on their assessment of risk.”
To that end the USEF has compiled a list of state-by-state links and phone numbers for the veterinarians for each of the affected states, as well as other useful links about the outbreak.
All National Cutting Horse Association shows have been cancelled through June 5 as a precautionary measure. Both the American Quarter Horse Association and the Arabian Horse Association have reevaluated their qualifying requirements for upcoming regional and national championships to reflect cancelled competitions in states affected by the outbreak.
Previous neurological EVH-1 incidents included several cases in New York State and New Jersey in April 2011 and an outbreak in late 2006 and early 2007 in Florida and elsewhere in the country.