Anyone remember what happened about this time last year? Well, other than the Navy SEALS bringing down the Wrath of God on Osama Bin Laden, most folks in the horse business will easily remember the first large-scale problem with EHV-1 (equine herpes virus) in the Western performance world. For me, I call it “The week my cell phone exploded.”
Until that time, EHV-1 had pretty much kept itself on the Thoroughbred tracks and boarding facilities, well away from the places most of us live and work. The cutting in Ogden, Utah, served as the jumping off point for the dissemination of the virus, and more importantly, the panic that came along with it. In my experience, the EF-5 tornado of misinformation that blew across Facebook and Twitter caused far more damage than the very few horses that actually had the virus ever thought about doing. So, whether you were of the opinion that it was a disaster, or just a minor inconvenience in your weekend show schedule, hopefully, we all learned something from it.
For better or worse, we are all more aware of a disease that is likely to strike again. When it does, I think it will be more virulent than before as it hides within our horse population, becoming a more opportunistic infection. But, as our awareness and surveillance has increased to mitigate infections that tend to target the performance/hauling horse, we are better able to provide safer environments and less opportunity for outbreaks to shut down the Western Performance horse world.
So, just a friendly reminder of where we’ve been and how things can change in a year’s time. Terrorists and viruses have a lot in common, and in my opinion should be treated the same way. So, keep an eye to your horse’s future through timely vaccination, proactive hygiene measures, and keeping yourself up to date with what’s going on in the world around you. … and don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.
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Dr. Justin High is a veterinarian and partner in Reata Equine Hospital in Weatherford, Texas. He graduated vet school from Texas A&M University and completed an internship at The Littleton Equine Medical Center in Denver, Colo. High’s years of practice focuses on the Western performances horse. Send any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.