Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Four (!) Rides, with Lots of Distractions and EHV-1 Concerns

Today really was all horse, all the time.  My day started with an early morning ride on Dawn.  She did very well, despite several interruptions - the drag coming and going, and various pieces of equipment coming and going.  Towards the end of the ride, a truck was snow plowing outside the arena, with revving engine and spinning tires - she coped with all of it and we had some very nice work, including bounding canter on both leads - she's really got the idea now.

Then, since the vet was coming, I brought both Pie and Red in from the turnout.  They were reluctant, but willingly did what I asked.  Since the vet was running late (this always seems to be the case with vets), I decided to ride Red.  This was our first ride in the morning - I have until now always ridden him in the afternoon after bring-in time.  The circumstances were very challenging - there were tractors shoveling up snow just outside both arena doors, making a considerable racket and visible through cracks in the doors, and also sounds of people outside chipping ice and shoveling.  Red coped beautifully with it all - he was nervous at moments, but took comfort from the other horses in the ring and also from my directions.  We had a very nice, short walk/trot ride and I was extremely proud of how brave he was.

In the afternoon, I took Red out again for another short ride - we hadn't worked that much in the morning.  He did some nice walk/trot/canter work, although he wasn't as energetic as he'd been in the morning.  He was very cooperative, though, and although we only worked for a short while, his willingness to please was wonderful.  Then Pie and I had a nice ride.  We did some more spiral out work, keeping his hindquarters to the outside.  Then we spent some time sitting and watching a jumping lesson at a safe spot in the arena.  While we were doing that, we worked on our backing, side pass and turns on the forehand and hauches, as we adjusted where we were standing to accommodate the horses jumping courses.  Between sets of jumping, and after they were done, we did some nice trot and canter work, focussing on keeping the hindquarters out and stepping into the corners.  Pie also survived his first experience of ice and snow falling off the roof - he leapt and was nervous for a little bit, but recovered very well - I was very proud of him.

That made four rides in one day - it won't happen that often but it was pretty fun!

Now, on a more serious topic.  There has been an outbreak of EHV-1 - equine herpes virus - the neurological form - at a barn very near us.  There are also cases in Florida right now, although it doesn't seem that the infected horses here in Northern Illinois had any contact with horses from Florida.  The process of figuring out where the infected horses came by the disease - they came to the barn where they got sick quite recently, according to my vet - is still ongoing.  That barn is under quarantine, and two horses have been euthanized due to severe neurological symptoms.  EHV-1 is usually a respiratory disease - cough, nasal discharge and fever - but occasionally it turns into a neurological disorder.

The information is very new - the confirmation that the horses were infected with EHV-1 came only last night - but my vet recommends that all horses at barns in the nearby areas be vaccinated with Pneumabort-K vaccine.  My horses were vaccinated this morning.  My vet says that the vaccine will not necessarily prevent horses from getting EHV-1, but since the vaccine interferes with viral replication and reduces viral load, it should reduce symptoms in an infected horse, and since viral load is associated with the development of neurological complications, it should also reduce the incidence of progression to neurological symptoms in an infected horse.  Our barn should be relatively low risk, since horses don't come and go - and certainly won't now - but the brother of one of our barn workers works at the affected barn and he shares housing with his brother, so there is a (we hope remote) risk of transmission through contact with clothing, shoes, etc.

Keeping fingers crossed, and please send good thoughts and prayers to those already affected by this serious disease.

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