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Local Professionals Take Precautions Against EHV-1

So what about EHV-1? How does it effect the Chicago horses?

The contagious virus is out there and protocols are in affect, but what does that mean to the Chicago equestrian showing locally? We’ll explain what the virus is, how local professionals are dealing with the outbreak and what you can do to keep your horses safe.

What is EHV-1?

EHV-1 (equine herpesvirus-1) is one of a large group of DNA viruses causing potentially serious disease in horses and other species. EHV-1 has two forms: one that causes abortion in mares and one that causes respiratory infection and neurological symptoms. The cited outbreaks have involved the EHV-1 respiratory/neurological form of the virus causing a condition known as Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM).

EHV-1 is contagious and is spread by direct horse-to-horse contact, by contaminated hands, equipment and tack, and, for a short time, through aerosolization of the virus within the environment of the stall and stable.

What are the Clinical Signs of EHV-1?

The initial clinical signs of the infection may be nonspecific and include fever of 102°F or greater. Fever may be the only abnormality observed. Other presenting signs may be combinations of fever and respiratory symptoms of nasal discharge and cough. Some horses have reddish mucous membranes.

Horses with neurological disease caused by EHV-1 infection can soon become uncoordinated and weak and have trouble standing. Difficulty urinating and defecating may also occur. Often the rear limbs are more severely affected than the front. Signs of brain dysfunction may occur as well, including extreme lethargy and a coma-like state.

The incubation period of EHV-1 infection is HIGHLY VARIABLE, depending on the host, on the virulence of the virus, and on environmental and other factors such as stress. The AVERAGE incubation period is 4 to 7 days, with the majority of cases being 3 to 8 days, but with some taking up to 14 days. When neurological disease occurs, it is typically 8 to 12 days after the primary infection involving fever. In most cases, horses exposed to EHV-1 will develop a fever and possibly nasal discharge and then go on to recover. (UC Davis Center for Equine Health)

What Local Professionals are Doing to Avoid Spreading the Virus

Local horse show management, such as Showplace Productions, has established a protocol requiring 7 day health certificates from out of state horses and are asking trainers to keep logs of horses’s temperatures. The complete protocol can be found on their website,

Professional shippers such as Craig Sappington of C&E Transport, told us they are using Opticide 3, a veterinarian disinfectant, to spray down their trucks after every load when under normal circumstances, this is done once a month.  Sappington has also asked for health certificates no more than 7 days old when again, they are normally valid for 30 days. They have also split their fleet, using the same trucks for the Florida drives, leaving the remaining fleet for local runs.  

“We have asked customers to keep temperature logs for a week before their horses ship. Customers are also buying the whole truck to ship, even if they don’t have a full load, to ensure no other horses get on the truck with theirs,” Sappington added.  “Everyone is trying their best to not spread the virus.”

Local trainers planning on attending shows have taken it upon themselves to bring disinfectant to the shows to spray down the stalls before putting bedding and horses in them. Thinking about the set up is important too, having tack stalls between their horses and others are helpful and putting feed and water buckets in the backs of the stalls are also considered.  Keeping your horses away from others is key to controlling the spread.

Braiders are also disinfecting their mane combs and washing their hands before starting on a new horse.

Local veterinarians are suggesting early vaccination of horses to protect them. This is not the time to delay spring shots!

Those professionals returning home from Florida are taking horses’ temperatures daily. All tack, buckets, haynets and equipment are getting disinfected before leaving the grounds and some even disinfecting again at home.

Trainer, Lisa Goldman, spent time showing in Ocala where the outbreak began. 

“We have been closely monitoring their temperatures over the last couple weeks” Goldman said. “We are avoiding all direct contact with other horses and our vaccines are up to date. We clean our bits after every ride, and have hand sanitizer close at hand. Our horses are stabled on the opposite side of the show grounds of the index horse. We feel that the precautions we are taking, plus the time in quarantine will keep this virus from spreading home to Chicago.”

Biosecurity Measures

• Keep your horse in a place where direct contact with other horses is minimal. If there is contact with other horses, it should be preferably with horses that do not leave the premises and return frequently.

• Have a policy for your stable for horses that leave and attend horse events. Horses returning from distant events should have minimal contact with other horses. Upon returning to the stable, travel horses should ideally be isolated from the home stable population for at least 2 weeks.

• While traveling, if it is known that at the
event there were sick horses, take your horse’s temperature twice daily and report a fever (101.5°F or greater) to the stable manager and your veterinarian.

• Avoid petting and touching other horses to minimize the chance of infecting your horse.

• Use separate water buckets, feed troughs, tack and grooming equipment for each of your horses. If equipment must be shared, it should be dipped, washed and dried before use on another horse.


The following recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant and Animal Health Inspection Service are based on the belief that you are the best protection your horses have. These guidelines are intended to reduce the chances of an infectious disease being carried onto your farm by people, animals, equipment or vehicles, either accidentally or on purpose.

Showing Your Horse

• Use your own trailer whenever possible. Don’t ship your horses with horses from unknown farms.

• Ship only in a trailer or van that has been cleaned and disinfected. If you can “smell horse” in the empty trailer, it has not been cleaned and disinfected properly.

• Don’t let your horse touch unknown horses, especially nose to nose.

• Wash your hands, especially after helping other people with their horses.

• Don’t let strangers pet your horse, especially those with horses at home.

• Before leaving the show grounds, clean and disinfect tack, boots, equipment and grooming supplies. Brush off dirt or manure; then disinfect (spray or wipes are easy to take with you).

• When you get home, shower, blow your nose and put on clean clothes and shoes before going near other horses.

Visiting Other Farms, Horse Shows or Auctions

• Have a pair of shoes or boots that you save for visiting and don’t wear around your own

horse or wear plastic shoe covers.

• If you are going to be working with horses on another farm, wear coveralls or plan to change clothes before returning home to your horses.

• If there are farms you visit all the time and you can’t change clothes and shoes, be sure their vaccination program and biosecurity practices are as good as your own.

For Visitors to Your Farm or Horse

• It is best to have only one public access to your farm. Mark this as the main entrance.

• Park away from the horses. Doing that will help keep disease-carrying organisms from being tracked from car floors or tires to your horses.

• Ask all visitors to wear clean clothes and shoes. Give visitors plastic shoe covers or brush dirt off their shoes and spray them with disinfectant.

• If you have many visitors such as at a farm tour or open house, make a footbath for them to walk through (see inset, page 11).

Bringing Horses Back from a Show

• If one or more horses travel to horse
shows, all horses on the premises should
be vaccinated. Horses that show can bring home infectious agents. Discuss with your veterinarian what vaccinations the horses need and how often.

• If possible, keep horses that were off the farm isolated for at least 2 weeks. At the very least, make sure there is no nose-to-nose contact between horses in the stable.

Bringing in New Horses

This is the most likely way for infectious diseases to come in, especially if horses are coming from other states or from foreign countries.

• Keep every new horse isolated for 30 days. Don’t use pitchforks, grooming tools, or feed and water buckets on any horse but the new one. Mark these with red tape or use red brushes, etc., only for the isolation area.

• Work with the isolated horse last each day. Alternatively, wear boots and coveralls when working with the isolated horse and remove them before working or going near other horses. You can keep these in a plastic-covered tub near the horse. Exercise the isolated horses, alone, at a separate time from others in the stable.

• Always wash your hands and blow your nose after working with the new horse. You could carry germs to your other horses in your nose.

(UC Davis Center for Equine Health Volume 25, Number 2 - April 2007  The Horse Report – 11)


If everyone does their part, we can keep our horses safe.

For more information on EHV-1 you can go to