The sport horse industry has been on high alert in the wake of several confirmed equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) cases at racetracks, horse shows, and fairgrounds nationwide. These venues are hot spots for herpesvirus transmission, and now is prime competition season for many disciplines.

Take the winter show scene in Florida for instance: When the index case of neurologic EHV-1 was diagnosed Feb. 20 at HITS horse show in Ocala, there were thousands of hunters, jumpers, eventers, and dressage horses congregated in the Sunshine State. Just think of the mayhem that might have ensued had area farms and competitions not employed immediate biosecurity measures and quarantines.

The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center took immediate action to prevent EHV-1 spread.

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett

With my impeccable timing, I was competing that following weekend in Wellington, Fla., at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). I was a bit worried about case proximity (a farm less than three miles from where my horse boards was under quarantine after an EHV-1 positive) but I was mostly curious to find out what the general attitude was on the front line. Here at The Horse we had been posting daily case and quarantine updates and fielding concerned readers' questions nonstop. For a horse health media outlet, disease outbreaks are a big deal!

Upon arriving in Wellington, however, I was surprised at how relaxed everyone seemed. Comments from fellow competitors were consistently nonchalant: "We're taking horses' temperatures daily, but everything's been normal," or "There haven't been any positive samples here at WEF, so I'm not too worried." Even a few "Wait, some farms are under quarantine here in Wellington?"

Fortunately, the horse show took many steps to keep owners informed and protect equine inhabitants, posting regular updates on its website, canceling classes and restricting access to certain barns when warranted, tightening security, refusing after dark horse arrivals, requiring 48-hour health certificates for all horses entering the grounds, and installing signs advising exhibitors to practice smart biosecurity.

Seeing these preventive steps in action was reassuring, and I realized why so many owners and trainers might seem lax in the face of EHV-1: Through greater media attention and news outlets such as social media, the horse industry is becoming better informed and better equipped to handle and prevent disease spread.

So I, too, pushed my fears of some massive outbreak wiping out WEF to the back of my mind, heeded the "Don't let horses touch noses" warnings, and focused on enjoying a weekend of showing.

Have you seen changes in the way the industry handles outbreaks?