At the Far West Championship Horse Show in Redmond, Oregon this week, more than a dozen horses became ill. The show management, which hosted Morgans and many gaited and baroque breeds, has sent all the horses home. Owners have been asked to "self-quarantine" sick horses at home that have been at the show. Test results will not be available until sometime next week to identify what type of illness has befallen these horses.
With luck, it is a mild infection that carries no threat of greater danger or consequences. But over the next few days, owners of these valuable horses will need to keep them separate from other horses at home, monitor these horses for signs of illness, and disinfect stalls, equipment and trailers before other horses can use them.
They'll also have to wonder about their behavior and habits before and during the show in Redmond: Were they up to date on all their shots, not just the required ones? Were the stalls they moved into clean? Did their horses mingle with others? Did people groom, braid, shoe, feed, tack up, medicate, massage or even touch their horses as well as other horses? Did they share any tack or stable equipment? Did they miss any signs?
Bend Equine Medical Center in Bend, Oregon provides the official show veterinarians for the Far West show; the hospital issued this statement on Saturday, June 20th, to notify the public about the situation at the fairgrounds:
"As show veterinarians for the Far West Championship Horse Show being held at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds, we have been involved in the care of horses affected by an outbreak of a contagious upper respiratory infection.
There are currently 15 affected horses, ranging in age from 1-7 years old. Fourteen of the fifteen are from one barn on the grounds. Affected horses are showing fevers, coughing, nasal discharge and lethargy. No horses are showing any neurological signs, and no horses have required hospitalization or any treatment other than Banamine administration. The incubation period appears to be approximately 3-4 days.
"We have asked owners of all affected horses to self-quarantine their horses at home for two weeks, and for owners of all horses that attended the show to monitor their horses for fevers or other signs of infection. Blood and nasal swab samples have been obtained from all affected horses and will be tested as soon as laboratories are open to identify the infectious agent.
"The Far West Horse Show management has been proactive in management of this situation, and cancelled the majority of classes today.
"We have been in contact with the State Veterinarian, and there are no official quarantines in place. We realize this may potentially impact next week's OHSET meet at the fairgrounds, and are working to determine a diagnosis as quickly as possible to aid in decision-making for that event.
"Here are links to how to quarantine horses:
"And here is AAEP's Contagious Infectious Respiratory Disease protocol:
The Far West Championship Horse Show and Region 8 Morgan Championships placed an announcement on the show's website stating similar facts:
"As of June 20, 2015, 15 cases of respiratory disease at the Far West Horse Show were treated. The signs are: fever, cough and nasal discharge. None of the affected horses show neurological signs, testing is pending. We will disseminate as soon as we know the results.
"The State Veterinarian has been contacted and we are cooperating. No official quarantines are in place. We are recommending horses at the show be self quarantined at home for two weeks and monitored for fevers. All barns are cooperating. We are making every attempt to make a speedy diagnosis."
An outbreak, like this, no matter what it turns out to be, effects more than just the horses who were at the show this week. The fairground in Redmond hosts a series of horse events throughout the summer. Next weekend, it is the host of the Oregon High School Equestrian Team's state championship meet.
Strangely enough, that event was rescheduled from early May, when an outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus in Oregon made holding the event inadvisable for the health of the horses.
Test results should be known sometime this week.
In a few days, we may learn that this was all "much ado about nothing", but if that is the case, it is good news for the horses exposed to the infection. It's also good news to anyone whose eyes may have been opened to the reality of contagious disease transmission between horses assembled for shows and events. It could happen anywhere. Are you ready? Is your horse, your trailer, your barn?
People in Oregon are checking off the boxes on the lists today, and realizing there is a lot to do to protect their horses. Some started earlier than others; their work is done. Those are the people you want in the stall beside yours at the next show.