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More News About Equine Virus in FL


Horse show in Wellington canceled over fears of deadly equine disease

December 14, 2006

By Sharon Robb
South Florida Sun-Sentinel  

 , FL -- A potentially deadly horse virus has forced officials to cancel this weekend's American Grand Prix Association National Championship at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club.

AGA event, part of the $100,000 Stadium Jumping Christmas Festival scheduled for Friday and Sunday, was limited to 30 invited riders and horses including Margie Engle, McLain Ward and defending champion Jaime Guerra.

According to a show official, four horses already have died, including veteran rider Debbie Stephens' horse Cosequin's CEO on Sunday. Three farms in the Grand Prix Village, located next to the showgrounds, are in complete lockdown.

Early unconfirmed reports from several officials and riders suspect the virus to be EHV-1, Equine Rhinopneumonitis, more commonly known as equine herpes virus. Official blood tests have not been returned to the Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

"[Cosequin's CEO] was at Dr. Hayes Stevens' clinic and I wanted to commend he and his team for doing everything they could to save him," Stephens wrote in an e-mail.

There is no cure for the disease. Quarantine is the most effective strategy once an outbreak occurs. The virus has a wide range of symptoms from respiratory problems and fever, to pregnant horses aborting fetuses and paralysis.

"Safeguarding the horses in our community and the protection of the equestrian industry in
Wellington is our utmost and primary concern," said Stadium Jumping Inc. President Gene Mische. "We would much rather prefer to err on the side of caution than put even a single horse at risk."

Until the disease is confirmed and contained, it's not known how far reaching the effects, if any, will be to the billion dollar horse show industry and future events including the Winter Equestrian Festival, scheduled to begin in late January.

Horse Virus Scare on Farms

December 15, 2006

By Sharon Robb
South Florida Sun-Sentinel  


WELLINGTON -- Heavy rain flooding horse trails on Thursday was a blessing in disguise for veterinarians hoping to keep horses on their own farms in the wake of a potential outbreak of a deadly equine virus.

As anxious riders and owners wait to hear whether a potentially deadly horse virus has been identified, veterinarians were vaccinating hundreds of horses as a precaution throughout
Palm Beach County.


Dr. Kim Snyder, of the Palm Beach Equine Clinic, said she has not treated or seen a clinical case of the suspected equine herpes virus. She vaccinated more than 500 horses on Wednesday and was in the midst of vaccinating dozens more on Thursday as "a preventative measure," she said.

"We are set up right now to vaccinate horses, boostering them with a Rhino vaccine to give people more peace of mind," Snyder said. "If their horses have already been vaccinated in the past two months, we are not recommending the booster. If they want to feel more comfortable they can get it.

"This is like a hurricane where there is panic and rumors circulating. The veterinarians are doing a good job of networking until we know exactly what we are dealing with. Right now it's a waiting game."

Snyder said it's important for riders, grooms and horse owners to stay on their own farms, minimize contact with other horses and not go to the showgrounds.

"The rain did help today," Snyder said. "The most important thing is no one travels with the horses from barn to barn to barn and to monitor their horses' temperatures and any neurological symptoms. If anything is above 1016½ degrees, they should contact their veterinarian."

Results from blood samples of stricken horses were not expected back from a
Kentucky lab until next week.

As a precaution, the American Grand Prix Association National Championship and Christmas Festival were canceled Friday and Sunday at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club. The event may be rescheduled at a later date.

As of Thursday, no border alert was issued by the Florida Division of Animal Industry in
Tallahassee to bar the transporting of horses in or out of Florida. State officials, including USDA Government veterinarian Dr. Julie Gauthier, have been closely monitoring the situation since last weekend.

"If the horses do get quarantined with herpes disease, there is a 21-day period since their fever breaks that they have to stay isolated," Snyder said. "I feel we can keep it under control if we educate the clients and eliminate the rumors."

It is not known how far-reaching the effects will be to the billion -dollar horse show industry, but it could have a snowball effect from
Canada to Florida and west of the Mississippi River.

It could also pose a threat to the 10-week Winter Equestrian Festival, the world's largest and longest- running equestrian competition, scheduled to open in
Wellington on Jan. 24. This is the time of the year horses are beginning to be shipped to the showgrounds.

This weekend's event was new this year, and a crowd of 5,000 to 6,000 was expected. Show officials estimated the economic loss to the area to be about $250,000. Most of the 25 to 30 competitors and horses were already in
Palm Beach County, which is far different from the WEF, where losses could go into the millions if it had to be canceled.

As far as the horse -racing industry, officials at
Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach and Palm Meadows Thoroughbred Training Center in Boynton Beach said no horses have showed any signs of illness and no precautions have been taken at this point.

Olympic equestrian rider McLain Ward, of
Wellington, was being proactive by keeping his horses on his property. "It is a scary situation, but hopefully the vets can get a handle on what's going on," Ward said.

Ten-time AGA Rider of the Year Margie Engle, also of
Wellington, whose husband, Steve, is a vet, canceled a shipment of horses as a precaution. She has also instructed her staff to stay on their property.

"No trail rides," Engle said. "This heavy rain today might not be the worst thing in the world for keeping people inside."

Snyder said only one confirmed horse death in
California has been attributed to equine herpes virus. She emphasized there are no confirmed cases in Florida but is "highly suspicious" of the herpes virus. She said a shipment of horses from Newburg, N.Y., may have carried the virus into California and Florida.

Several horses are under observation, including a polo pony that has been shipped to the Palm Beach Equine Sports Complex, which is under a voluntary quarantine.

The cause of death of show rider Debbie Stephens' horse Cosequin's CEO is suspected to be equine herpes virus. Her
Wellington farm is under quarantine until bloodwork results are reviewed by veterinarian Hayes Stevens. Two other farms in the Grand Prix Village next to the showgrounds are also in lockdown.

Staff Writer Dave Joseph contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006,
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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