March 16, 2012

EHV-1 at HITS Thermal

Compliments of the Montana Hunter Jumper Association, I woke to see this on Facebook this morning: Heads up to those who attend the shows in Thermal, there are now 2 confirmed cases of EHV from horses that attended the shows. One is in San Diego other in northern California.

I did a bit more research and found plenty of info on Chronicle of the Horse forums, among others. Bottom line, if your or a fellow boarder's horses were at Thermal during week, 4, 5 & 6, they are at risk of infection.

"Oh, great, here we go again" was my instant thought. Almost every show in our area/state was shut down last year from the outbreak at the cutting horse show and many barns went into voluntary quarantine, including my old barn. That meant no one could leave or come in for any reason other than a vet emergency. In last year's incident there was only one horse from one barn in our town that had attended the cutting show. He recovered and no other horses were infected. That barn did an amazing management job and really kept the public informed. Aside from horses at that barn, last year's outbreak offered no big reason for panic for the rest of us, but it did kill the majority of scheduled shows. This time around, I know of at least two different trainers (and I'm sure there were more) from two different barns, that have clients who board with them and haul-in's, all of which went to Thermal. I'm not sure during which weeks though. Potentially, this could make for a much more wide spread outbreak and kill the show season once again.

So, how did the Thermal horses get it? Apparently the outbreaks in the California polo horse community started in December. The Empire Polo Club, who is nearby the showgrounds had an outbreak at their barn immediately prior to the start of Thermal. In early January the polo club noticed the first symptoms of one of the infected ponies. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state put the entire polo complex on a 21-day quarantine starting January 25th and ending February 14th. On January 25th, Thermal issued a notice to trainers and competitors about the nearby quarantine, but assured everyone that the risk of contamination was low and it was safe to show. Thermal began on January 24th and ran through March 11th.

Today, on March 16th, news is spreading over the internet that once they returned home two horses that were at Thermal have been confirmed with EHV-1. Confirmation was on March 14th. According to one of the horse owner's Chronicle thread the Thermal vet was reluctant to test for EHV-1 insisting that the gelding had skeletal issues. The owner quickly packed up her three horses and headed home. Upon arriving home and taking her neurological horse to the vet hospital he got the EHV-1 diagnosis. The owner and her horses had been at Thermal for 20 days when the gelding became symptomatic. The incubation period is 2-10 days, meaning he definitely contracted it while at the show.

My random thoughts on how this all happened:
Given how easy EHV-1 is to pass from contact, I imagine someone went to the polo club on Sunday for a match, pet one of the (still) infected horses, went back to the Thermal stables and pet another horse. That or someone from the club went to Thermal with unwashed hands and clothes and perused the stables petting and infecting horses. Polo people love big "velvet head" horse shows just as much as we all love having a Sunday picnic on a polo field.  I spent many wonderful years working in the high-goal polo industry, and I know how much those horses cost and how much money flows through the business. Equestrian facility owners could only dream of the money and profits that polo clubs take in. As for the horses, they often cost far more than most people's A/O H/J show horses, so polo clubs, owner's and top trainers don't mess around with diseases like this. However, their grooms tend to have the attitude that all you have to do to cure a horse from anything is to turn it out in a field for a couple months. Given that the bulk of work involved in a quarantine would fall on the grooms, my hunch is that the polo club quarantine was not run as well and with as much care to detail as the one at our local barn last year. There is big money in polo, and often the desire to dazzle the crowds brings a "show must go on" mentality. Something I love about polo, but something that may now have caused a potential outbreak in the wider horse community for the 2012 show season.

I'm just hoping that none of our local horses were infected. Fingers crossed.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!


  1. I'm worried about the "show must go on" mentality. After last year there could be a feeling that the horse community can't take anymore of this and people might decide not to report it in the name of the dollar.

  2. Ugh. I hadn't heard this. Hopefully things get under control a lot faster this year.

  3. Wow that sucks!! I hope none of your local horses were infected. :( I hope they find out whoever spread it and he/she loses his/her job!!!



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