Horse herpes virus in Placer but no threat yet to Tevis Cup

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Tevis Cup ride organizers are staying the course, despite some skittishness in the horse community over the threat of a dangerous horse-herpes outbreak in California. The cause for concern is an equine herpes virus that the state Department of Food and Agriculture has traced to the National Cutting Horse Association’s Western National Championships in Ogden, Utah in early May. Horse herpes has been confirmed in a total of 15 horses in the state, including two in Placer County. The other horses with the virus were found in Kern, Stanislaus, Amador and Napa counties. One horse in Kern County was euthanized after showing severe neurologic signs often associated with the disease. According to the state, equine herpes virus cannot be transmitted to humans but has the capacity to spread quickly among horse populations. With the Tevis Cup from Truckee to Auburn scheduled for July 16 and more than 200 horse-and-rider teams already registered, the Western States Trail Foundation – which puts on the ride – is monitoring the situation but not backing out. With two months to go before the start of the 100-mile endurance ride through the Sierra, Kate Riordan, Western States Trail Foundation spokesperson, said Friday that there are no plans to postpone or cancel the Tevis. “So far all the horses in California affected by the disease are connected to the Ogden event,” Riordan said. “No others are affected by it.” Riordan said the Western State Horse Expo June 10-12 at Sacramento’s Cal Expo – with 300 horses expected – is also moving ahead. “We’re staying well-informed and working closely with Food and Ag,” Riordan said. At the Pacific Avenue staging area, rider and Tevis Cup horse trainer Hillorie Bachmann of Vacaville was steering her horse away from the communal trough invitingly filled Friday with cool water. “We’re just taking precautions,” Bachmann said. “We’re keeping our herd closed, changing our clothes between stables and washing everything.” Bachmann said she’s using the water from hoses at the Pacific Avenue trailhead in Auburn but bringing her own buckets. Two of Bachmann’s horses – CV Eli in 2004 and 2007 and Master Motion in 2003 – have been Tevis Cup top finishers. “They’re our family and we have to be careful,” she said. “I would totally trust the Tevis Cup organizers. They’re all about safety, whether it’s the snow or the virus. And I would trust their decision.” Steve Lyle, Department of Food and Agriculture spokesperson, said that some organizations have put off holding rides and other gatherings with horses out of concern about the spread of the virus. “We’re not suggesting that at this point,” Lyle said. “We’re continuing to investigate the situation and have no plans to close shows or exhibitions.”