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AQHA Postpones Level 1 World Championships After EHV-1 Positives

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Level 1 World Championships will not be held as planned next week in Las Vegas. Officials postponed the show after two horses tested positive for non-neurological Equine Herpesvirus — type 1 (EHV-1) after showing at the host venue.

The Level 1 World Championships, which are intended to showcase the association’s beginner riders, were scheduled for April 17-20 at the South Point Equestrian Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The South Point recently hosted the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Stallion Stakes, and after that show two horses that had been at the event tested positive for the respiratory form of EHV-1.

The AQHA said in a statement issued Friday (April 12) the decision to postpone the Level 1 World Championships was made in conjunction with officials from the South Point as well as the Nevada State Veterinarian. Before the decision was made to postpone the show, officials at the South Point had planned to require temperature checks for all horses entering the facility and to ask owners to take their horses temperature twice a day and record the data on charts posted on the animals stalls.

“The No. 1 priority of AQHA is to protect the welfare of the horse,”  AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines said in a statement. “With the recent reports that horses in attendance at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Stallion Stakes event have tested positive for EHV-1, it was necessary for the AQHA Executive Committee, Association staff, facility management and the state veterinarian of Nevada to evaluate whether we should move forward with holding this event. The South Point Arena and Equestrian Center has taken the appropriate biosecurity measures to clean and disinfect the facility. However, all parties involved with this decision believe it is the best option to postpone the show to protect the welfare of our exhibitors’ horses.”

The EHV-1 virus can manifest itself in horses in a number of ways, including as a respiratory infection and a neurologic condition.

NRCHA Veterinarian and Animal Welfare Committee Chairman Dr. Joe Carter said in a statement Thursday night the respiratory, non-neurological form of EHV-1 that the horses tested positive for after the Stakes is very similar to the flu.

“EHV-1 is more common than most people realize,” he said. “Keeping your horse up-to-date on vaccines is the best line of defense against EHV-1, along with many other viruses horses battle regularly. If a Stakes competitor is concerned about their horse’s health, it is best to consult their local vet and monitor the horse closely.”

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) said that signs of the neurological form of EHV-1 — which, in severe cases, can result in death — include nasal discharge, incoordination, hind limb weakness, loss of tail tone, lethargy, urine dribbling, head tilt and the inability to rise. Horses also may lean against a fence or wall to maintain their balance.

Horses can contract EHV-1 through horse-to-horse or indirect contact, according to the AAEP. That includes contaminated equipment, trailers, grooming equipment, feed buckets and water buckets. Humans can also spread the virus to horses through contaminated hands or clothing.

The two non-neurological EHV-1 positives after the Stakes — one horse was from California and the other was from Nevada — are among six EHV-1 positives reported in Nevada since last month. The first positive was reported in mid-March in a horse that had attended a high school or junior high school rodeo in Nevada.

The AQHA says it and the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center are looking into the possibility of holding the 2019 AQHA West Level 1 Championships at a later date this year or determining if the event will be cancelled altogether. AQHA will share more information at and on the AQHA West Level 1 event Facebook page, once this decision has been made.

Exhibitors will have several options with respect to the entry and stall fees paid for this event, including the option to receive a full refund, the ability to leave the funds on their account for future use including entry or stall fees at other AQHA championship shows, or to apply their payment towards entry and stall fees to attend the potentially rescheduled show. Exhibitors can email [email protected] with the exhibitor’s name, horse’s name, amount paid and which refund option they’d prefer. The AQHA Show Department will process these refund requests. As soon as AQHA and the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center determine if the show will still be held at a later date, exhibitors will be notified via email.     

The South Point Hotel & Casino will waive room cancellation fees due to the cancelling of this event. Please contact the South Point Hotel & Casino at 866-791-7626 to cancel room reservations.

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