Balancing Horse Movement and Disease Prevention

One researcher suggests some steps that could minimize disease risk without impeding horses? travel.
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In today’s world of increasing national and international equine events and breeding opportunities, one of the big issues practitioners and governing bodies face is maintaining a balance between facilitating horse movement and mitigating disease risk. At the 2012 International Conference on Equine Infectious Disease, held Oct. 22-26 in Lexington, Ky., Peter Timoney, PhD, FRCVS, professor and former department chair and director of the University of Kentucky’s Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, spoke on this topic with emphasis on international travel, but his takehomes are just as important and applicable to domestic horse transport.

“Some very wise people said to me many years ago, ‘Once you stop movement of horses, you’ve crippled an industry,’ and there’s nothing more true,” he began.

Timoney explained that maximizing protection from infectious disease spread while minimizing restrictions on horse movement are conflicting aims at their core. The health requirements that govern horse movement are intended primarily to minimize the risk of introducing diseases into an equine population. Due to significant trends that have developed in the past 30 to 40 years, however, risk of disease spread through horse movement has increased. Some of the trends Timoney identified include:

  • An exponential growth in the number of prestigious equestrian and racing events;
  • A significant increase in the number of stallions used for dual-hemisphere breeding; and
  • The acceptance and use of artificial insemination by the vast majority of breed registries

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Written by:

Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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