Metro Race Tracks Work to Combat Neurological Horse Herpes Virus

Updated: 03/22/2014 7:48 AM
Created: 03/21/2014 8:45 PM
By: Brandi Powell

A special type of preventative construction is starting at Running Aces Harness Park. This, after a neurological horse herpes outbreak began a few days ago.

With horse racing set to begin in April and May, the goal is to keep the virus away from the racetracks.

KSTP saw some of the preparations firsthand.

On Friday, Running Aces workers began building something they hope they don't have to use. It's in response to the Equine Herpes Virus One Infection, otherwise known as the EHV-1 Outbreak.

"When you bring your horses to a race track, your ultimate goal is to race that horse," said Dr. Lynn Hovda, Chief Commission Veterinarian for the Minnesota Racing Commission. But this racing season, a neurological horse herpes virus is threatening that.

Dr. Hovda explains, "The horse might be leaning against the wall. You take it out of the stall and it would be unable to walk in a straight line."

A number of events and barns are in lock-down mode until they see how this shakes out. Dr. Hovda said, "There is some innate fear in people too. I mean this is a very serious disease and many horses die from it."

To prepare for a possible spread of the virus, during the races, right now they're building isolation stalls. By the month of May, a total of four stalls will be up and ready at Running Aces, for infected horses to be quarantined. Six isolation stalls are already up at Canterbury Park.

They're instituting other measures at both tracks to help including, "Disinfecting our starting gates, disinfecting buckets, recommend[ing] that people microwave their sponges because that will kill the bacteria, [and] disinfecting the stalls before they put horses in," Dr. Hovda said.  It's all because they want to make sure the show goes on.

No doubt a lot is at stake. This racing season at Canterbury Park roughly 1600 horses are expected to commingle; and at Running Aces Harness Park they are expecting about 400.

Don't forget about the Horse Expo and many upcoming shows on the horse calendar.

A University of Minnesota Vet Med Center spokesperson said Friday afternoon, they were anticipating up to five infected horses to be treated in its Equine Center by Monday.

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