June 2005

At Columbia Horse Center in Howard County, riders, horse owners, volunteers and employees are still holding their collective breaths, hoping the dark shadow that equine
herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) has cast on the center will soon pass them by.

Since late March, when the crisis began, a total of six horses—all owned by the center—have succumbed to the disease. The latest death occurred on May 23.

However, all is not lost at Columbia, and center officials are determined to return to some sense of normalcy. The horses have recently begun a modified turnout schedule and owners of horses in the unaffected barn are permitted to ride their horses in fields where they are turned out. All of this activity is taking place under strict safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus, with the now ominous presence of isolation gowns, rubber gloves and disinfectant.

Even with the increased activity at the center, the outbreak will not be considered over until all the horses remain symptom-free for several weeks. Barring any new developments, state veterinary officials expect to lift the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) “hold order” (which prohibits horses from moving on or off of the farm) on June 10.

“We are hopeful that the virus has run its course and that the incident will be over soon,” said acting State Veterinarian James I. Fearer in a May 20 press release.

Meanwhile, The Equiery is happy to report that Radar, the subject of last month’s update, is now on the road to recovery.

The center also hosted a Preakness Day party for all of its patrons. The day was topped off by a planting of a “Memory Tree” in honor of the horses that died as a result of the disease.

The racing community is also feeling the effects of the equine herpes virus. Kentucky’s Churchill Downs recently experienced an outbreak that resulted in the deaths of two horses and the quarantine of three barns.

—Starr Crusenberry