California Update: HITS Thermal “Safe to Show” With EHV Precautions After More New Cases Announced in Orange and Riverside Counties


Horse show officials at one of the United States’ largest horse shows have been reassured by state veterinarians that their exhibitors are “safe to show”. HITS Thermal in southern California is 17 miles from a polo facility in Indio where a horse was euthanized on Monday after testing positive for the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus (NEHV).

HITS Thermal is a six-week (plus one week off after the third week) series of almost continuous horse shows and events near Palm Springs, California; the show opened on Tuesday. Many trainers arrive and expect to stay on the grounds with their clients’ horses for the duration of the show.

HITS Thermal has initiated some general precautions, which were published on Wednesday for exhibitors to follow. They include:

  • No daily ship-ins allowed effective immediately.
  • Upon arrival of horses to the show grounds, full disclosure for each horse as to where it comes from, where it has been and what contact with other horses it has had.
  • Keep control of contact among horses.
  • Procedures laid out for horse owners to take the temperature of each horse twice a day. An unexplained fever of 102 or higher should be reported to Dr. Peters, Hagyard Vet Clinic on grounds, for evaluation.
  • In a precautionary measure, horses in question will be relocated to one of several isolation stalls currently being erected on the grounds for further evaluation.

The HITS memo goes on to say that when directly asked, “Is the HITS show a safe place to bring horses to compete for the Circuit?”, all four of the vets?quickly and emphatically answered, “YES, the risk is low and being monitored by all of us and the State. Information will be quickly relayed to horseman. Keep checking the California Department of Food and Agriculture web site for updates.”


On Tuesday, January 24, and Wednesday, January 25, the California Department of Food and Agriculture published an update to its diligent reporting of Equine Herpes Virus cases in the southern part of the state.

To quote the report:

January 24, 2012: A gelding displaying hind limb incoordination and urine dribbling from a Riverside County premises was confirmed positive for the neuropathogenic strain of Equine Herpes Virus-1 (NEHV-1). The gelding became recumbent and was euthanized. The premises is under quarantine and CDFA has initiated an epidemiologic investigation. At this time we are not aware of any links to the Orange County incident. Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.

January 24, 2012: Four new cases of neuropathogenic Equine Herpes Virus-1 (NEHV-1) have been confirmed on the Orange County quarantined premises. A total of 15 horses have been positive on the Orange County premises. Only one of the 15 horses has shown neurologic signs.

January 25, 2012: ?There is one new confirmed case of neuropathogenic EHV-1 on the affected premises. ?A total of 16 horses on the property have tested positive and only one of the confirmed cases has displayed neurologic signs.

The Jurga Report published a report on the Orange County situation on January 20. The Riverside County case is a more recent development.

Polo Club Background

The Empire Polo Club in Indio, California issued a statement on Monday on its web site announcing that the horse euthanized in Riverside County was a polo pony at its facility. The statement, attributed to Michael Manno DVM, MS, reads:

“The polo horse that exhibited neurologic signs over the weekend and was euthanized Monday night has tested positive for EHV-1 at the U.C. Davis Lab. While other confirming tests at different labs are still pending, this single positive test warrants immediate action by the California Animal Health officials.

“With help from the staff at Empire Polo Club, we have instituted a complete quarantine of all horses stabled near the Forum field. Entrance through and exit from the gate near the Empire arena will be monitored and restricted to only essential personnel tending to those horses. The track next to the Forum field will be available only to the horses in the quarantined area. No other horses or people will be allowed in and out.

“State veterinarians from Sacramento and the Ontario branch of the California Animal Health and Food Safety division will meet with us Tuesday morning to assess the scope and duration of the quarantine process. At this time, the greater effect on the polo season or HITS horseshow cannot be determined. This will be decided by and is completely under the authority of State officials. This will also be determined by further testing results and/or the presence of additional infected horses, should any appear.

“We are asking all other horse owners to remain in their respective areas as much as possible. We will continue to update as needed and as new information becomes available. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.”

It’s interesting to note that the polo club posted its information directly on its web site, while the horse show used Facebook and Twitter to direct exhibitors to the announcement, which is not on their web site.

Just to make it interesting, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, while it does have a Facebook page, does not post updates on the EHV cases there.

Update: (February 3rd) No new cases have been reported in Riverside County. The last clinical onset date of a confirmed positive case in Orange County was January 24, 2012.

To learn more: A January 17th article on the website The Equestrian News by Paula Parisi details the decision-making process between show organizers and state veterinarians regarding the Langer Equestrian Group‘s Los Angeles Equestrian Center Opener show in Burbank, California last weekend. A horse show in Orange County earlier in the month was cancelled because it was close to the outbreak. The article describes the awareness of horse show organizers of outbreaks and the need for cooperation and communication between state officials and show management.

If you are a Facebook user, the San Dieguito Equine Group has been doing a great job of updating clients (and Facebook viewers) on their Facebook page:

Photos of jumpers by Alexander Kavun; polo pony by 7scout7.




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