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Friday, 27 May 2011 10:44

Horse virus in High River won't affect local racing

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By Gerald Gauthier
Concern about the spread of a deadly horse virus isn’t expected to disrupt local horse racing this weekend.

Although an annual rodeo which was scheduled for May 23 in High River was cancelled as a precaution due to an outbreak of equine herpes — a respiratory virus that affects horses — the Rocky Mountain Turf Club was going ahead with a full slate of live horse racing last weekend at the Lethbridge Exhibition.

Similar events have also been cancelled in Strathmore, Okotoks and Nanton.

Local club officials determined it was safe to go ahead after consulting earlier in the week with the track veterinarian and Canadian border officials, said Dot Stein, the club’s race manager.

Almost all of the 130 horses entered to race this weekend were in Lethbridge since late March or early April, she said. Only 15 horses were expected last weekend from the United States, she said, and all of them are from Montana.

“We have a lot of U.S. horses coming up, and we were told that would not be of any consequence to our horses,” she said.

The club was advised the only horses being turned away at the border are those that have pastured or travelled through New Mexico or Texas, she said.

At last report, nine horses in Idaho, Colorado, California, Washington and Alberta had been infected with the disease.

One case of the virus has been confirmed in Alberta.

The airborne disease poses no threat to humans, but it spreads easily among horses, alpacas and llamas because it can be transmitted by touch or by sharing feed, brushes, bits and other equipment.

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