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Herpes virus in equestrian sport: the horror of Valencia and the consequences


More than 80 horses show symptoms after the outbreak of the disease at a tournament in Spain, six have died. The aggressive herpes virus has spread to Doha. Nevertheless, a tournament is now to begin there.

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The horse herpes is spreading - and the fear of it too (symbol picture)

Photo: MediaNews Group / Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images / MediaNews Group via Getty Images

“Take care, best friend.

Our hearts are broken, we love you, forever and every day. «With these words, Tim Uwe Hoffmann says goodbye to his gray mare.

The young jumping rider shared a video and two photos of the horse and himself, all in black and white, on his Instagram account.

"Casta Lee FRH" was the first German horse to die of the insidious horse herpes virus after the outbreak of the devastating epidemic in Valencia, Spain.

It shouldn't be the only one.

Hoffmann traveled to Spain with his trainer Hilmar Meyer at the beginning of February to take part in the tournament series there.

Meyer and his students had a total of 24 horses with them.


Another died and all the other horses became sick.

On Tuesday, the FEI World Equestrian Federation canceled international tournaments in ten countries.

The outbreak was "probably the worst in Europe for many decades," said FEI General Secretary Sabrina Ibáñez, the strain of equine herpes virus type 1 (EHV 1) circulating in Valencia is particularly aggressive.

By Wednesday evening, 83 horses were showing symptoms on the show grounds in Valencia, and a total of 752 horses had been there since February 1, according to the World Equestrian Federation.

13 horses are treated in the city's veterinary clinic, and two more in Barcelona.

A total of six horses have since died.

If the course is difficult, the animals can lose their balance and no longer stand on their own.

Videos are circulating in which sick horses are pulled up with front loaders with nooses around their stomachs in order to get them back on their feet and support them.

  • Read more about the background and the outbreak in Valencia here: Aggressive herpes virus in horses

Criticism of the organizers of the Valencia Spring Tour is increasing among the participants.

The organizers are two Spanish tournament directors.

Several riders have already expressed themselves critically, such as the Swede Erica Swartz, who called the conditions in Valencia “a disaster”.

Hilmar Meyer, the German trainer on site, attacked the organizer directly in an interview on Wednesday: "He's no help at all," said Meyer.

On February 19, a wave of fever broke out in the stable tents, which indicated herpes.

There was no information about it.

The riders feel left alone, the clinics are overcrowded, there is no crisis team, the riders organize themselves among themselves.

The German Equestrian Association also criticized SPIEGEL: “The World Equestrian Federation is currently investigating in Valencia how the outbreak could have come about and whether and how it could have been prevented.

The fact is that the outbreak was not announced as early as it would have been necessary to keep the spread on site under control, «writes the FN.

On Tuesday, she also canceled all national tournaments until the end of March.

Four infected horses in Doha

The virus was already spread in three European countries because several animals had left the tournament in the meantime.

It was announced on Thursday that the virus variant from Valencia had also been detected in the USA.

According to a tournament organizer, there is a positive test in Florida.

The virus has also arrived in Doha, where the Global Champions Tour is to take place this weekend with many world-class riders.

Two horses of the German show jumper Sven Schluesselburg had already traveled from Valencia to Doha on February 12th, with a stopover at the home stable in Ilsfeld, Baden-Württemberg.

Both tested positive for the EHV-1 pathogen at times.

According to this, Schlüsselburg had already left before the outbreak of the infection in ignorance of the infection.

Two Colombian horses left Valencia on February 7, but according to the FEI they did not arrive in Doha until February 20.

All four horses were isolated according to the FEI.

Because of this, and because all other horses tested negative, the association approved the tournament.

However, the temperature of all horses must be measured twice a day and the number of horses in the warm-up areas is limited.

Of course, the risk of infection is not zero, says FEI veterinary director Göran Akerström.

"Epidemiologically, the risk of further cases in other horses in Doha is low due to the biosecurity measures already taken and the additional binding conditions agreed today."

“The chances of recovery cannot be foreseen.

Even if it's a completely different virus, you can compare it to Covid-19. "

Jan-Hein Swagemakers, team veterinarian for the German show jumpers

The team veterinarian of the German show jumpers, Dr.

Jan-Hein Swagemakers is shocked by the outbreak in Valencia.

But for the Global Champions Tour, he estimates the risk of another outbreak to be very small: “The infected horses arrived in Doha healthy.

They were already there when the outbreak in Valencia became known and were immediately isolated, «Swagemakers told SPIEGEL.

One horse had a slight fever.

He rates the likelihood of the virus spreading in Doha as low.

Because the horses affected have no contact with other animals.

Unclear whether the animals survive

"There are always herpes outbreaks, actually every year in winter and spring," says Swagemakers, many horses carry the virus latently.

There are different variants of the herpes virus.

»In Valencia it's type 1, which is common and which is usually associated with a cough and fever.

Sometimes it also hits the nervous system, which can lead to neurological failures there, ”says the veterinarian.

However, he confirms that the form that is rampant in Valencia appears to be very aggressive.

In addition, a large group of horses met there for some time so that the virus could spread.

Whether or not the four-legged friend will survive the disease differs from case to case: »The chances of recovery cannot be foreseen.

Even if it is a completely different virus, it can be compared to Covid-19.

Because even with EHV-1, horses with extremely serious illnesses can become completely healthy again, even if the probability is not high.

And in the same way, if the course is actually mild, it can lead to permanent functional impairments later, ”says Swagemakers.

Sick horses can only be supported and supplied with immunity-boosting agents and anti-inflammatory drugs.

There is a vaccination against the horse herpes virus.

According to Swagemakers, however, this is controversial as it does not offer one hundred percent protection.

“It only helps to vaccinate all horses in a herd.

This reduces the virus load.

The more horses are vaccinated, the fewer viruses are passed on, ”says the veterinarian.

There is no general compulsory vaccination for the herpes virus - not even from the world association FEI.

In Germany, however, the FN and the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) recommend vaccination.

The animals in Valencia are expensive competition horses that are well cared for and managed.

"The reason why the virus was still able to spread like this has to be worked out," says Swagemakers, "but first everyone is working to get the horses healthy again."

The FN hopes that the measures taken will have an effect and contain the further spread of the virus.

For the time being, the association does not see any consequences for the Olympic Games.

If the virus does not spread further, the open-air tournament season could start in early April, they say.

The main Olympic sightings for German riders and horses are the German Championships in June and the CHIO Aachen in early July.

There will also be further international tournaments from the end of April.

Icon: The mirror

Source: spiegel

All sports articles on 2021-03-04

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