Friday, May 27, 2011

Horse herpes outbreak forces rodeo queens to ride stick ponies

While the state has yet to officially cancel any events involving horses that might have been exposed to a local recent equine herpes outbreak, owners and arenas are taking precautions.

Because of the outbreak, contestants at the Davis County Sheriff's Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest had to cowgirl up Thursday night without their mares.

Instead of competing on horses, as is typically the case, contestants were asked to trot around the arena with stick horses as their show ponies.

"It's kind of weird, but you can't really help that the disease is going around," said former queen Savanna Steed. She said the stick horses will test the riders' knowledge of whether they know the routine, rather than letting the horse do all the work.

Utah has 13 suspected and seven confirmed cases of equine herpes virus after horses at a regional cutting horse competition at the Golden Spike Arena in Ogden first showed symptoms of the illness.

Horse herpes is not sexually transmitted and is not considered a danger for humans, but it is highly contagious among horses and other animals of the equine family. The most common way for the virus to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact, but it can also spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.

The disease can be fatal to horses and is incurable. (read more)