Thumbs up: Wellington Equestrian Partners and Tequestrian Farms Fund Gluck Center for Study of EHV-1

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The Jurga Report receives a lot of press releases. Not all of them contain good news that will benefit a wide swath of the horse world, but tonight's is different.

I read a little quip the other day that said something like "Advertising is telling everyone how great you are. Public relations is getting other people to say how great you are."

Well, here's The Jurga Report saying how great Wellington Equestrian Partners and Tequestrian Farms are to realize how close the entire Florida horse industry came to a disaster when EHV was discovered in a horse at the HITS Ocala Show--and for taking action to help avoid disaster in the future.

Florida was at once the worst and best place for the outbreak.

It was the worst because it is a land of horses in motion--moving between showgrounds, racetracks, vet clinics, training centers and farms. Trying to control a disease is compounded when you don't know who's been where--with whom. And in which vans.

It was the best because the vets and state officials in Florida have been through EHV before; they know what to do, when to do it and where to do it. Quarantining more than a dozen farms in the Ocala area is an example of their thorough approach to isolating horses that might have second-hand exposure to a virus.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that someone in the horse show would step forward to donate to research into this tricky virus that can kill both?horses and the equine economy. But, yet, it is a surprise. A pleasant one!

What, exactly, is going on??Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP) and Tequestrian Farms formed a joint partnership to donate $100,000 to the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky. The money will be earmarked toward research of the EHV-1 neurologic disease. A special Veterinary Committee is planned, and WEP and Tequestrian will also lead in gathering information for established protocols for owners, treating veterinarians, and horse show managers to prevent and neutralize EHV-1 at equestrian events.

If you stop to think about it, $100,000 is a drop in the water bucket compared to the financial devastation that would have happened if EHV had shut down the Winter Equestrian Festival. We saw what EHV did to Wellington back in the ?holiday season of 2006-2007. An entire show season was at risk until the virus was stifled...and the show went on with healthy horses.

Here are the highlights from tonight's announcement, along with the Tisbo family's recent experience with being suspected of having an EHV-infected horse:

Tom Tisbo, owner of Tequestrian Farms, stated, "We are interested in helping to fund new EHV-1 research after our experience with a false-positive case. The ongoing problems the equine community in the United States has faced with EHV-1 and its impact on the horse are a sign that more work needs to be done to understand this devastating disease."

With the news of more cases of EHV-1 in the United States and the potential impact on horse welfare, WEP and their operating entity, Equestrian Sport Productions, believe that research to understand the "wild strain" of the disease, whether the "wild strain" is mutating, established protocols on veterinary care, and uniform biosecurity measures at horse shows are of paramount importance.

WEP and Tequestrian hope their donation will address the following points:

  • Determine the virulence of the virus during an outbreak
  • Give an understanding of the molecular basis of the neurologic disease
  • Improve the techniques for diagnosis of EHV-1
  • Provide a basis for the development of more effective vaccines

"The Tisbos approached me with the idea of helping the equestrian industry become more informed about EHV-1," said ESP CEO and WEP Managing Partner Mark Bellissimo. "We think a grant to Gluck is a great first step and hope that with a Veterinary Committee's assistance, we can start the conversation of getting universal protocols for the prevention and treatment of this disease.

"We want to make sure that all of the horses coming to our horse shows are healthy, but also help determine the best way to apply standard measures at events. We want to learn from our recent experience and not look back, but forward, in order to get the best from a bad situation."

With the instance of a false-positive test at Tequestrian Farms, the situation of dealing with incorrect information is one that the Tisbo family want to help others avoid. Tequestrian Farms was released from quarantine on Monday, March 4, by the State of Florida Veterinarians when it was determined the the horse in question had never tested positive for the strain of the EHV-1 virus that has created such concern in Ocala.

The original positive blood test was found to be a false positive as supported by several subsequent negative nasal and blood tests. Additionally, all Tequestrian horses at their Wellington facility, including the horse in question, have been retested with negative results. None of the horses there had ever shown any neurological signs and are completely healthy. An independent veterinarian with a PhD in virology and a specialist in infectious disease has confirmed these findings and supported the State Veterinarian's decision to lift the quarantine.

With this instance, it became clear that proper veterinary protocols need to be established for treating veterinarians at all horse shows to follow.

"Our goal is to help elevate the standard of the industry, protect horse welfare, protect the sport, and protect communities where shows operate. With the capability and possible consequences of this disease, it's in everyone's best interests to learn more and be on the same page," Bellissimo explained.

Making recommendations to horse show management is Robert Holland, DVM, PhD, an expert on infectious diseases of the horse.

"I look forward to this much needed project, and am grateful to Tequestrian Farms and Wellington Equestrian Partners for their generous donation," Holland said.

While Tequestrian Farms and WEP have pledged $100,000 to the research grant, other donations are welcome. Those who wish to help can contact Equestrian Sport Productions at 561-793-5867 for more information.

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