By Karen Carlson
Is traveling with your horse putting her in danger of illness, or worse?
In recent years the outbreaks of equine herpes virus 1, or EHV-1, and other communicable diseases in horses have really caught the attention of horse owners and governmental agencies. Sometimes deadly, the EHV-1 condition, which affects the nervous system of the horse, is imported in an affected animal without the knowledge of the owner or even the veterinarian, as it can remain symptomless for weeks.
A few years ago in Southern California, an outbreak cost the lives of several horses attending a horse show and placed all others at the facility at risk of exposure. The virus went undiscovered for some time and horses were unknowingly moved about, from show to show, horses that may have been exposed. This potentially exposed many more equine across the Southwest.
Email strings flew across the Internet and flooded horse owners’ inboxes for months. Daily I received more warnings, cases discovered and news of sick and dying horses. Although relatively rare, death is at times the outcome of exposure to EHV-1 and other communicable diseases.
Reading the reports of what symptoms look like scared the bejezus out of any horse owner who had never heard of the condition or experienced an infected equine. Just visualizing a horse with tremors, sweats, loss of muscle control, drooling, etc. set horse owners on edge. People stopped making trips with their horses, even to the local trails and camps that were always a favorite, just in case.
I am very protective of my horse and don’t allow her to drink from community troughs and, if I take her camping and place her in a stall (corral), I typically re-clean it, removing every stem of anything she would ever be able to possibly eat prior to placing her in it during our visit. Then I keep my fingers crossed the entire time and for weeks thereafter that she doesn’t end up ill. I love my horse, she is family, so I am, and, yes, I’ll say it, overprotective.
The EHV-1 virus has been around and identified for years, but this particular outbreak was extensive and costly to track down. It took a great toll emotionally and monetarily, so the equine industry promptly reacted across the nation. Rules for travel have been in place for decades, but those rules were updated, expanded and tightened in late 2012, approved by the USDA January 2013 and as of March 2013 are being strictly enforced.
Under the new regulations horses moving interstate must be identified before movement and accompanied by an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) or other state-approved document.
All states now require that an ICVI accompany any horse entering their state, so this should make for easier and faster tracing and identification of any problem horse. Most people who move equine interstate do so for breeding, racing or showing purposes. Many states had some requirement for moving livestock, to include equine, in place already so this should not prove a difficult burden on most equine owners. Please note that these are interstate rules and do not apply to moving about within the same (original) state.
Horses that are required to be officially identified under the new rules may be identified by one of the following methods:
•A description sufficient to identify the individual horse including, but not limited to, name, age, breed, color, gender, distinctive markings, and unique and permanent forms of identification such as brands, tattoos, scars, cowlicks, blemishes or biometric measurements. In the event that the identity of the horse is in question at the receiving destination, the state animal health official in the state of destination or APHIS representative may determine if the description provided is sufficient;
•Electronic identification (animal identification number) that complies with ISO 11784/11785;
•Non-ISO electronic identification injected into the horse on or before March 11, 2014;
•Digital photographs sufficient to identify the individual horse; or
•USDA backtag for horses being transported to slaughter as required by the Commercial Transport of Horses to Slaughter regulations.
Now, don’t panic or tell yourself you’ll never take your horse anywhere. That’s not realistic or any fun. If you travel with your horse in any capacity, be aware of the illnesses that could affect her health and how to prevent or avoid them. If you travel across state lines, make sure you know what you must do to have your horse in tow.
Speak with your veterinarian about any needs or questions you may have regarding your horse’s health, regardless of whether you are traveling up the road for camping or across the nation.
For a complete copy of the updated rules and requirements, visit www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-01-09/pdf/2012-31114.pdf.