By Bill Finley
On the heels of an equine influenza outbreak that shut down racing in Great Britain for eight days earlier this month, a handful of show horses have come down with the same virus in Ohio and Indiana.
Because the infected horses in the U.K. had raced at two different tracks and had come in contact with several horses that were stabled throughout the country, British racing officials felt it necessary to shut down racing until the situation was under control.
Speaking of the cases in Indiana and Ohio, Rusty Ford, an equine operations consultant for the Kentucky State Veterinarian’s Office, said people working in the racing industry should be “conscious of the situation but not necessarily worried.”
In Ohio, the World Equestrian Center recently sent out a news release that stated that three horses on the grounds had been confirmed with equine influenza and had been placed in quarantine. A few days later, attending veterinarians in Indiana reported multiple cases of equine influenza in Hamilton and Ripley Counties. The sick horses in Indiana had recently attended events at the World Equestrian Center in Ohio.
However, with none of the equestrian horses coming into contact with any Thoroughbreds that are currently racing or being bred, there’s little reason to believe that the virus will show up at any racetracks or farms.
“We did last week receive notification of equine influenza virus affecting multiple horses at the World Equestrian Center (Hunter/Jumpers) in Wilmington Ohio,” Ford said in a statement. “During the week, we had several conversations with the veterinarian at the facility as well as Ohio Animal Health officials. We’ve worked with Kentucky horsemen to assist facilitating the movement of horses from the Wilmington facility to their home bases in Kentucky. Horses moving to Kentucky from the facility in Ohio are being isolated on arrival and closely monitored. Our understanding is samples from affected horses have been submitted to the University of Kentucky’s Maxwell H. Gluck Center, where sequencing of the virus is being completed. We are encouraging our horsemen to review with their veterinarian each of their horse’s vaccination status and determine if there might be a need and benefit to boost the immune response based on risk factors.”
Ford said that horses involved in the show world are more likely to come down with EI than racehorses.
“One of the things you’ll see in Ohio is that these horses are all in an enclosed arena and stabled under one roof and in one environment,” he said. “It’s like they’re all stuck in the same oven in that situation.”
Like racehorses, show horses must be vaccinated for EI, but Ford explained that for a number of reasons the vaccinations are not foolproof, particularly when there are several horses are confined to the same stabling area.