Exposure of horses to equine herpes virus results in cancellation of Cotton Days Jr. Rodeo

File photo from 2017 Cotton Days Jr. Rodeo from Washington City Facebook page, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Due to an outbreak of the potentially fatal EHV-1 this spring, as well as another form of the virus, Cotton Days event organizers have cancelled the Jr. Rodeo, previously scheduled for Tuesday. Other Cotton Days events will still take place as planned.

“We feel it is in the best interest of the competitors and their horses,” Ron Larsen said in a press release from Millcreek Ranch. This is only one of several events that have been cancelled in the area as a result of the virus.

Utah State Veterinarian Dr. Barry Pittman said that there has been evidence of both Equine Herpes Virus 1, as well as equine herpes myeloencephalopathy.

“That is a mutant strain of the EHV-1 virus that is a little more severe and it causes neurological signs,” Pittman said in the press release. “Its really the one we have the most fear of. There have been multiple cases and deaths due to this virus.”

The release went on to say that the Jr. High rodeo horses were first exposed Feb. 22-23 in Pahrump, Nevada, and several other examples of potential exposure were listed, including the following:

  • Exposed horses traveled to the Washington County Fairgrounds in March.
  • An Idaho horse was confirmed at an event in South Jordan, Utah on March 15-17 which had multiple local horses in attendance that were potentially exposed.
  • A horse from California and another from Clark County tested positive for EHV-1 and were placed under quarantine after competing in the National Reined Cow Horse Association Stallion Stakes at the South Point Equestrian Center March 30 to April 6.

As a result of the South Point Equestrian Center exposure, Nevada State Veterinarian Dr. JJ Goicoechea recommended on April 13 that Nevada horse owners do not travel or compete with their animals.

Previous to the announcement regarding the Cotton Days Jr. Rodeo cancellation, Dr. Bo Beck requested the Utah High School Rodeo Association cancel their April 5-7 rodeo. The Southwest Barrel Racing Association canceled their race on March 30 and April 13, and the Washington County Barrel Racing Association canceled their races on April 1 and April 16.

An outbreak of the virus in 2012 caused the death of 160 horses, and the 2019 cancellations are recommended to stop the spread of the virus.

In an article from Deseret News, Pittman urged horse owners across the state to seek information from reliable sources, contact managers of events they plan to enter, increase health checks of their animals and stay at home if they don’t feel comfortable traveling with their horses.

For more information, visit the Equine Disease Communication Center website.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for understanding,” Larsen said. “We look forward to hosting next year.”

For more information on Cotton Days, including a full schedule of events, click here.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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