The recent news of EHV-1 in North America is tough to avoid in many print- and web-based equine publications. Barns in a few U.S. states and Quebec have been quarantined, other states have launched monitoring programs and concern has spread among equine enthusiasts.
With the respiratory and neurological complications, EHV-1 is no laughing matter — especially for fetuses carried by infected mares. The virus is highly contagious and can be passed among horses by humans.
I’m sure many veterinarians in the U.S. and Canada have received calls from concerned horse owners wanting to know how to be vigilant against the virus. They will want to know how their barns plan to keep their horses healthy.
The interesting thing is that some owners who are terrified of EHV-1 fail to make hoof care a priority. Some will spread the farrier visits out more weeks than they should. They will allow their horses to remain overweight, despite the detrimental impact on hoof health (and overall health). Some will opt for a less qualified farrier because that one is $5 cheaper than the qualified farrier they fired.
An EHV-1 outbreak will always get equine media attention. The more common issues of poor hoof health caused by owners shouldn’t take a backseat. Some of this imbalance is due to timing. A horse can acquire EHV-1 in one brief moment of exposure. But the damage caused by ignoring a horse’s footcare often takes time to build.
However, those outlets that covers equine health topics have a responsibility to promote proper hoof care. Sadly, those headlines aren’t popular until the subject moves from poorly maintained feet to a more devastating outcome.