Disease Protection at Horse Shows

July 9, 2012 (published)

In the summer, it seems like everyone goes to horse shows. One concern about horse shows is exposing your horse to the diseases of other horses. This problem became big news in early 2012 when an outbreak of neurologic equine herpes virus developed at a national cutting horse show in Utah. Many horses were exposed, several were infected, and a few died or were euthanized. Anytime you go to a horse show, you risk your horse’s health but there are some things you can do to prevent disease transmission.

First of all, make sure your horse is vaccinated by your veterinarian because your vet knows which brands of vaccine are the most effective for the diseases in your area. Vaccination would not have helped in the herpes outbreak because there is no vaccine approved to protect against the neurological strain of herpes. However, there are other vaccines that will prevent contagious diseases so vaccination is important. Always bring your own feed and water buckets and never share with other horses without disinfecting. Try to avoid nose to nose contact with other horses as much as possible as most of the contagious diseases are transmitted through respiratory secretions. Anytime you are involved with other people's horses, wash your hands or disinfect with a 62% alcohol gel product.

Since early detection of infection is important, Dr. Roberta Dwyer from the University of Kentucky indicates in Equine Disease Quarterly to take all your horse’s temperatures twice a day. After returning home from a show, continuing to take your horse’s temperature for two weeks after returning, and if you have other horses, quarantine the show horses from the rest of your herd for two weeks.

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