Bulletin Board: 04/01

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West Nile Virus Vaccine A Rumor
Concerns over the prevention of West Nile Virus, including mosquito control and a potential vaccine, are rising with the start of mosquito season in the Northeast.

Talk of a vaccine that may be ready by the peak WNV period in late summer “falls in the rumor category,” said Dr. Tom Overbay, director of professional services at Fort Dodge, which produces a number of equine vaccines. “It would be premature to speculate as to the time a vaccine might be ready.”

Since the number of human cases of West Nile Virus dropped in 2000, many local jurisdictions in the Northeast are easing up on mosquito control this spring. However, the virus did spread from just the New York City area in 1999 to 12 states and the District of Columbia in 2000, ranging from New Hampshire to North Carolina. Bird and animals cases went up, with 59 equine cases in seven states at a mortality rate of 40%.

Detection of the virus in mosquitoes and birds has preceded all the human cases, but not all the horse cases. ??In several instances, an equine case was the first indication that the virus was present in a state or county.

This shows that horses are extremely susceptible to this virus, and horse owners should keep their guard up. Equine cases started August to October in both 1999 and 2000, although this pattern could change.

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Health Alert: Rabies In Florida
Seminole County, Fla., issued a rabies alert after four animals, including a horse, tested positive there this winter. Rabies is a threat throughout the United States but is most heavily clustered in the Northeast. Livestock cases tend to peak in the spring, possibly due to the wild-animal breeding season.

In 1999, 65 equine cases of rabies were reported nationally, the last year for which statistics are available. Rabies is declining nationwide in domestic animals due to vaccination, but it is rising in the wild. Skunks, raccoons, foxes and coyotes are major reservoirs.

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Town Bans Barrel Racing
The zoning board of Dartmouth, Mass., upheld a cease-and-desist order in February against holding barrel racing events on an eight-acre, 27-horse boarding farm in the town. The board decided town bylaws allow barrel racing only by horses stabled on the property and not by attendees who pay an entry fee or compete for prizes. Farm owner James Devlin plans to legally challenge the decision.

Devlin planned to hold two competitions a year and said he had met all the town’s requirements. He said the town is unfairly targeting an activity that is misunderstood to be a rodeo or a racing event. He said that the town has not targeted properties that hold other horse shows.

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New USET Coaches
The USET named Klaus Balkenhol of Germany to coach the U.S. dressage team through the 2004 Olympics, while Sandy Pflueger Phillips will coach event riders in dressage and David O’Connor will coach developing event riders.Balkenhol coached the German dressage team that won the gold in the Sydney Olympics. He also has won several Olympic medals.

Phillips was a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic dressage team and is a successful event rider, in addition to being the wife of Mark Phillips, coach of the USET event team. O’Connor was the individual eventing gold medalist in Sydney.

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AHSA Expands Dressage Classes
AHSA dressage shows may now offer new classes for young horses, juniors, equitation riders and rules changes for riders with disabilities.

Selection trials for the 2001 Young Horse Riding Championships, for five- and six-year-old dressage horses, will be held this spring in California, Illinois and North Carolina. Winners will be short-listed for the world finals in Germany in August. In addition, Dressage at Devon (Pa.) will host a Young Horse Championship. Special FEI tests have been written for five- and six-year-olds.

FEI tests for junior riders are now being offered, and qualifying classes this spring will lead to a North American championship. Group classes in dressage-seat equitation, leading to an AHSA dressage seat equitation medal, are also available.

Young horses can compete in group classes called “materiale classes,” which will count toward USDF awards. Rule changes will allow riders with disabilities to compete in open shows with modification of rules and equipment.