The good news: Colorado EHV quarantines, which resulted from an outbreak last month of the deadly neurologic form of the equine herpes virus, are nearly all lifted, and our horse industry can breathe easier.
The bad news: Normal now equals “caution”. Why? Horses travel more these days, according to state veterinarian, Dr. Carl Heckendorf. “Colorado alone has more than 1,000 events a month. Some things we have taken for granted leave us with an important new message: Keep congregation to a minimum; don’t share water troughs; don’t share feed troughs,” Heckendorf said in a telephone interview.
Horsemen today routinely cope with illness alerts, more so than a decade ago. Diseases like rabies, West Nile, vesicular stomatitis or strangles (distemper) rarely made it to our mental radar back then. We made sure our horses got a few shots, and assumed everything would be fine.
But while vaccines exist for many horse illnesses, they don’t always work 100-percent. EHV, which usually causes respiratory problems and abortions, has a vaccine, but its manufacturers make no claim to prevent the neurologic form that recently killed so many horses.
What makes this complicated is that much of the horse industry depends on the travel and intermingling associated with competitive events. The more a horse travels, the more its exposure risk climbs.
The best offense? Trite but true: A good defense. Other suggestions for keeping your horse safe from disease include:
Don’t tie your horse in a large group. Leave it tied to your trailer
Don’t let your horse sniff noses with strangers
Horses new to stables should be quarantined for 14 – 21 days
When practical, horses that have just traveled should be kept away from others. (Heckendorf acknowledged that this is a tough one for boarding stables like ours, which frequently have clients going to horse shows.)
- Follow a regular equine vaccinations program
Establish a regular relationship with your veterinarian, who will often be privy to the latest horse medical news, and can quickly pass it on to you.
There is no perfect solution for horse owners today, and a lot of decisions will depend on common sense. “Foot baths, hand-washing, traffic control - it all depends on your situation,” said Heckendorf, “If you go to our website, you’ll find a number of good biosecurity suggestions.”