Sunday, May 29, 2011

Over-reacting or Responsible?

Keeping in line with the previous two posts, mine is also horse-health related.

A little over a week ago, the boarders and students in my barn received an email from the barn owner/trainer that the barn was on "lockdown" for thirty days because of the EHV-1. No horses were alllowed in. If you took your horse out of the barn, you couldn't return it until the lockdown ended.

The barn owner consulted with her veterinarian and read several press releases from reputable sources on the subject. There was also a horse diagnosed about 20 miles away with the virus. Her barn is a busy one, and horses come and go several times a day.

I applauded her quick action as responsible and unselfish. After all, Kari and the assistant trainer stood to lose a month's worth of lesson fees from haul-in students, not to mention entry fees from shows during the lockdown period. I appreciated her willingness to put the health of the horses over her financial gain.

In talking to other friends, the majority of them were not taking their horses anywhere until the threat was deemed passed by those in authority.

Other horse owners I knew were not so concerned. They discounted the EVH-1 threat as over-reaction by the horse community. They continued to go on their group horse activities, were offended when a local show was cancelled, and considered the entire thing to be an unfounded panic. Their lack of concern for their horses irritated me. Especially when they complained about a show being cancelled or chastized their friends for not going on a organized ride.

I held my tongue, but it was difficult. From my viewpoint, the only way to stop the spread of EHV-1 was to cease all horse travel and make sure all people handling your horses take precautions. I considered their actions self-serving and showing little concern for the horse. They considered me an alarmist given to bouts of panic.

Now that the risk of EVH-1 is waning, the people who didn't believe it was a serious issue are defending their stance by pointing out how it didn't become an epidemic and stating those of us who chose to keep our horses home were being paranoid.

I see it differently. I believe it's because of the responsible actions of people like my barn owner who who prevented the disease from becoming an epidemic.

What do you think? Was it all hype and hysteria? Were the extreme measures taken by many barns necessary? What would you expect a responsible horse owner to do in this case?


Mikey said...

I'm with you. I think it's dying down because people have been responsible and not gone anywhere with their horses unless absolutely necessary. I feel terrible for those affected, who lost great, very valuable horses just because they went to a show. I know I can't afford to replace the horses I've put YEARS of work into to make them a good horse. The idea of losing them because I didn't heed the warnings is incomprehensible to me. The bond and trust I have with my best horses is irreplaceable.
This has also changed my outlook on competing. Besides thinking that a lot of what goes on (and wins) in a show ring is unnatural for a horse, there's now the chance that my horse could die just from being there with an infected horse. Plus the costs of entry fees keeps going up, along with gas prices. For me it's a $50 minimum in gas just to get to an event. I'm not sure I want to go anymore. I just want to have fun with my horses.

Laura Crum said...

Mikey and Jami--I gave up competing long ago, and the high risk of my horse getting exposed to something at these shows (not to mention the stress of hauling long distances, not to mention the expense) was part of the reason. As for the recent scare, I took the middle road (like I usually do). I asked my boarder, who competes regularly at team roping, not to go to any events (which were mostly canceled anyway) and he did not. We did continue to practice rope with our small group of friends who all live within a few miles of us and have no interactions with cutters. I kept careful tabs on the official reports and was well aware that the disease was not present in our county or in any neighboring county. I knew that so far no horse had come down with it that had not been directly exposed to a horse that went to the Utah cutting. I thought and think that the choice to continue to practice with our friends (and go on trail rides--just us, not group trail rides) was reasonable. My boarder is still not hauling to "events", and we are waiting to be sure there is no threat of a genuine epidemic before he does so. I think my choices were reasonable given the circumstances. I think that there was some degree of overeaction, but yeah, better that than an epidemic, for sure.

Alison said...

Not hysterical at all, which would be acting frantic instead of careful. I agree--the spread was halted due to vigilance. I hope it doesn't break out here in the East because someone wasn't careful.

Thanks Jami and the West Coast for being responsible horse owners.

Gayle Carline said...

The people who lost horses to the virus probably don't think we're over-reacting enough.

What some people don't seem to realize is that trainers who work with cutting horses often also work with reiners. At AQHA shows, we may not always have cattle events, but we almost always have reining. The chance for a bug to get passed around is bigger than some folks think.

We took my horse to a little show in January - it was his first show in well over a year. Ten days later he had a respiratory infection. It was a strep virus. Fortunately, he didn't give it to the horses who shared the trailer with him, but apparently he was just close enough to an infected horse to get it himself.

I'm not showing him again until this all dies down.

Jami Davenport said...

Laura, I think your behavior was very responsible. The people I was referring to were going on huge organized trail rides with people and horses they don't know.

Gayle, I think your points are well-taken regarding reiners and cutters. I'd never thought of that.

Mikey and Alison, I'd rather be safe than sorry. Even if I had a rideable horse entered in a show, I would have cancelled.

I was overall shocked at the people who whined that the group rides or shows were cancelled, and how it inconvenienced them. It gave me a good idea of what they really think of their horses. My horses have always been part of my family, like my cat and dogs, not some interchangeable piece of my life.

Chelsie said...

They were very responsible. I just learned about EHV-1 in my animal diseases class earlier this year. Very contagious. I'm glad there were no outbreaks close to me!

Minus Pride said...

Our barn is on lockdown as well...put there by me!! It's a very small boarding barn and we have empty stalls while lockdown is occuring, but the horses are safe and sound as of right now, and that's what is important!
I think EHV did not become an epidemic because of people that have no problem locking down their farms, and those who didn't simply got lucky. I don't want to simply "get lucky" with Sugar and her care, I want to take the best care possible of her, which I have taken steps to do.

Dreaming said...

Ah, the old adage, "Better safe than sorry" comes into play here. I am a total fan of lockdown. My trainer canceled lessons shortly after the virus reared its ugly head - she shut down all events. Since she holds a variety of clinics, that means she lost money.
It irritates me to see selfish people running the risk of exposing their horses, or others to this. I'm hoping that within the next few weeks we discover that the virus has been contained, then we can thank those folks who did stay close to home!

Jami Davenport said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. I'm glad to see most of us hold concern for our horses higher than we hold our own wants and needs and financial gain. I would be devastated if I lost Gailey to this virus, as I would be if a friend did, too. I feel bad for those that did lose horses.

horsegenes said...

I took the middle of the road approach too. I continued to go work cattle at a ranch that I had been going to every week. He had not had any outside horses but mine for quite awhile and he hasn't hauled his anywhere either so I felt it was safe. I went on a trail ride with a friend whose horse hasn't been anywhere - but other than that I have pretty much stayed close to home. The boarding facility that I had my paint horse at was on lock down and rightfully so. They get a lot of horses coming and going so they just put a stop to it completely. I felt it was a good choice for my horses safety.