WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 25, 2011, 09:17 AM

Change of plans for horse owners after equine herpes outbreak

Kindred, ND (WDAY TV) - Area horse owners are changing their summer plans after a strain of the equine herpes-1 virus broke out in western states, including South Dakota. Scores of horse shows, rodeos and team penning competitions have been canceled because the virus is so contagious and the potentially fatal disease can spread from horse to horse quickly.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Kerri Longtine of rural Kindred and Bill Borgen of Moorhead had plans to join other friends this weekend in Detroit Lakes for Team Penning competition. They and others from our area travel the country, taking part in world competition. But they plan to skip this weekend's event in DL after learning about the equine herpes virus outbreak.

KERRI LONGTINE - Horse Owner: “It is more where the horses have been and what horses have been exposed to other horses and you are going to take the chance of exposing your horses, the risk the liability and cost of it.”

This is the time of year horse shows and team penning competitions are everywhere scattered across the upper Midwest, forcing horse owners to make a tough decision: Compete or wait out the disease.

With cases in South Dakota and several other western states, there is no way to isolate all the horses that have been to shows and then traveled elsewhere. That is why horse owners here, who spend time and money caring for their own animals, don't want to take the risk of losing a horse.

BILL BORGEN - Horse Owner: “You don't know the exposure and you don't know how many ways to transfer it. And with a lot of horses at a show, and the uncertainty and the horses coming, we feel it is important to stay home for a couple of weeks and get it settled down for a bit.”

The herpes virus can cause neurological issues even death in horses and the disease can progress quickly, leading many in the horse world to step back and wait for the crisis to pass.

Humans may transfer the virus to other horses, but cannot become ill from the disease themselves.

Local equine experts say the herpes virus is not that rare and respiratory problems that develop in the horses usually clear up. At the Casselton Veterinary Clinic, vets are getting calls from area concerned horse owners.

Many are wondering if they should attend upcoming horse shows and events. A vaccine can help with the respiratory concerns, but does not prevent neurological problems that can be fatal to the horse. Veterinarians say if you don't have to travel with your horses, stay home.

DR. TAMARA SWOR - Casselton Veterinary Clinic: “I do tell people that if you don't have to go somewhere you are not going to miss a big event then yeah don't go for the next couple of weeks.”

Horse experts say if you do choose to travel to a show or competition make sure brushes, halters and bridles are thoroughly washed.