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March 15, 2013

Big Donation Made For EHV-1 Research

Wellington Equestrian Partners and Tequestrian Farms are pleased to announce a joint partnership to donate $100,000 for a research grant to the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky. The money will be earmarked toward research of the Equine Herpes Virus-1 neurologic disease. A special veterinary committee is planned, and WEP and Tequestrian will also lead in gathering information for established protocols for owners, treating veterinarians, and horse show managers to prevent and neutralize EHV-1 at equestrian events.

Tom Tisbo, owner of Tequestrian Farms, stated, "We are interested in helping to fund new EHV-1 research after our experience with a false-positive case. The ongoing problems the equine community in the United States has faced with EHV-1 and its impact on the horse are a sign that more work needs to be done to understand this devastating disease."

With the news of more cases of EHV-1 in the United States and the potential impact on horse welfare, WEP and their operating entity, Equestrian Sport Productions, believe that research to understand the "wild strain" of the disease, whether the "wild strain" is mutating, established protocols on veterinary care, and uniform biosecurity measures at horse shows are of paramount importance.

To that end, WEP and Tequestrian will be donating $100,000 to research that hopes to address the following points:

  • Determine the virulence of the virus during an outbreak
  • Give an understanding of the molecular basis of the neurologic disease
  • Improve the techniques for diagnosis of EHV-1
  • Provide a basis for the development of more effective vaccines

"The Tisbos approached me with the idea of helping the equestrian industry become more informed about EHV-1," said ESP CEO and WEP Managing Partner Mark Bellissimo. "We think a grant to Gluck is a great first step and hope that with a Veterinary Committee's assistance, we can start the conversation of getting universal protocols for the prevention and treatment of this disease. We want to make sure that all of the horses coming to our horse shows are healthy, but also help determine the best way to apply standard measures at events. We want to learn from our recent experience and not look back, but forward, in order to get the best from a bad situation."

With the instance of a false-positive test at Tequestrian Farms, the situation of dealing with incorrect information is one that the Tisbo family want to help others avoid. Tequestrian Farms was released from quarantine on March 4 by the State of Florida veterinarians when it was determined the horse in question had never tested positive for the strain of the EHV-1 virus that has created such concern in Ocala.

The original positive blood test was found to be a false positive as supported by several subsequent negative nasal and blood tests. Additionally, all Tequestrian horses at their Wellington facility, including the horse in question, have been retested with negative results. None of the horses at this facility had ever shown any neurological signs and are completely healthy. An independent veterinarian with a PhD in virology and a specialist in infectious disease has confirmed these findings and supported the State Veterinarian's decision to lift the quarantine. 

With this instance, it became clear that proper veterinary protocols need to be established for treating veterinarians at all horse shows to follow.

"Our goal is to help elevate the standard of the industry, protect horse welfare, protect the sport, and protect communities where shows operate. With the capability and possible consequences of this disease, it's in everyone's best interests to learn more and be on the same page," Bellissimo explained.

Making recommendations to horse show management is Dr. Robert Holland DVM, PhD, an expert on infectious diseases of the horse.

"I look forward to this much needed project, and am grateful to Tequestrian Farms and Wellington Equestrian Partners for their generous donation," Holland said.

While Tequestrian Farms and WEP have pledged $100,000 to the research grant, other donations are welcome. Those who wish to help can contact Equestrian Sport Productions at 561-793-5867 for more information.

For more information on the Gluck Equine Research Center, please visit www.ca.uky.edu/gluck.

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