By Llewyn Jobe
EHV and Me
I am passionate about the hunter/jumper world and have been since I was a child. Not able to pursue my passion actively until now, as an adult I found and purchased the horse of my dreams. Living and working in Los Angeles, I had precious little time to do what I loved most, as my job, commute and life outside of horses took up a majority of my days.
I made a decision to move my horse, Scotty, and myself back home to Texas this past February so I could continue to focus on our collective training. The cost of everything equine is much less expensive in Texas, which means I can work less and ride more, a big plus. I returned to my childhood riding trainer. Excited about this new direction, I’ll be working with EquestriSol to bring you my Amateur Accolades.
As an adult amateur rider with a relatively green horse, I made a goal to aggressively prepare for the 2011 show season. Much to my dismay, my trainers took us down a few levels in the hunter ring to focus on strengthening and conditioning us both before moving back up to the level we were competing at in California. Persevering, Scotty and I have competed at several small spring shows in Texas and have been gearing up to do a series of six shows over six weeks during the second half of May and all of June. As you can imagine I was anxious to get to the shows and prove my ability to nail those eight jumps in the hunter ring, so I could move back up to the jumpers.
Enter EHV-1, equine herpesvirus, an infection which can cause respiratory disease, abortion in mares, neonatal foal death, and/or neurologic disease. The neurological form of EHV-1 is called EHM, Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy.
Two days before the first of the shows in May, I received an email from the organizers stating that the show had been cancelled due to a lack of entries. My friends and I were very disappointed as we were all planning to meet up at the show and compete together. Within minutes of receiving the email canceling the show, I received the first of many emails about this EHV-1 disease. In my mind, it was too much of a coincidence – the canceling of the show due to lack of entries and these emails about EHV-1. Then the show we were scheduled to compete in on Memorial Day Weekend was cancelled as well. I appreciate the cautious nature of my trainers as well as the local show organizers here. Still devastated, I had a difficult time comprehending the severity of this EHV-1 problem. As much as I’d like to be showing after all the hard work we’ve been putting in, not to mention my desire to move up, I didn’t want to risk the health of my horse.
In my quest to find out more, I did a little research. What exactly is EHV-1? Apparently, there are nine EHVs that have been identified worldwide. EHV-1 is one of three EHVs that pose the most serious health risks for domesticated horses. A nasty little outbreak can cause a severe economic impact, as well as a lot of disappointed show goers hoping to prove to themselves and to their trainers that all of the long hours of training have meant something and yes, we can go into that show ring with a cool, focused head and accomplish our personal best. My trainer in California always told me, “it’s not about bringing me blue ribbons; it’s about doing your personal best.” Of course, I like to win and bring home the blue ribbons, but that’s another article for another day. I digress… back to EHV-1.
EHV-1 is the primary cause of equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM), another name for the neurological disease associated with EHV-1 that interferes with the blood supply and causes tissue damage and a loss in normal function of areas in the brain and spinal cord. EHV-1 is most commonly spread by direct horse-to-horse contact through the horse’s respiratory tract. It can also be spread through indirect contact such as tack, rags, feed and water buckets, and people’s hands or clothing.
Apparently there were several outbreaks of EHM at recent events. Equine professionals were concerned about the recent outbreaks of EHM, because of the severity and behavior of the virus. Even though the outbreak occurred at non hunter/jumper events, the concern clearly spread like wildfire.
Vaccines exist to control the respiratory and abortion manifestations of EHV-1; however, the currently licensed vaccines are not labeled for the prevention of EHM. Universities and private researchers are looking into several existing and new vaccines to determine if they can protect against EHM.
EHV-1, which is the cause of EHM, is not necessarily a new phenomenon. Who can say if the number of outbreaks has increased? Maybe it’s the number of cases being reported which has increased. Nonetheless a lot of precautions are in place right now to stop any potential spread. In talking with Scotty’s veterinarian, Dr, David Gilchrist at Lone Star Park Equine Hospital, he stated that “the EHV-1 and EHM outbreaks appear to have been managed correctly, however, it is smart to remain cautious. It’s true, an outbreak has occurred.” The way my barn in Texas took precaution is by locking down the barn. No horses in and no horses out.
It seems that all reported cases are directly related to horses that competed at two NCHA events (or horses exposed to infected horses). And my research tells me that if no new cases are reported over a 14-day period, we can be relatively certain the outbreak is over. This is good news on many levels. My trainer stated that we are going to consult with Dr. Gilchrist before attending any shows. However, if the next show we are planning to attend is cancelled, our decision will be made for us. We’re taking it one show at a time. Pockets of the horse industry have dealt with similar outbreaks in the past and they have recovered and gone back to business as usual.
In short, I am considerably bummed about not being able to show like we planned this season. I have grown to understand and respect my trainers’ decisions with these recent developments concerning the reported EHM cases in the western United States. After all, I depend on my trainers to protect the substantial emotional and financial investment I have made and will continue to make with Scotty. It’s good to know that they are taking good care of us, as I depend on them to do so. However, in order to continue my pursuit of accolades, perfect trips and personal best, my fingers are crossed that we’ll be back in the show ring soon!
EHV-1 Quick Notes:
– Keep Connected to Your Veterinarian to Assess Your Horse’s Level of Risk
– Follow Show Management Guidelines
Photo by Jennifer Jobe