Equine Herpes Virus

Last February 20th, the FEI Veterinary Department was advised of an outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) at the CES Valencia Spring Tour (ESP). It is likely that the disease was contracted by horses that attended the venue from at least February 1st 2021.

This type of Herpes Virus EHV-1, known in the form of Rhinopneumonia for which there has been a vaccine, is a neurological strain that is far more aggressive. “It seemed as if we were in hell,” said riders and grooms in Valencia. The case made headlines only after a desperate call for help was published by World of Showjumping on March 2nd, when speaking from Valencia, Carl-Walter Fox said: “We need help, and we need it now” (worldofshowjumping.com). Only then were serious steps taken, implementing all the necessary precautions to contain the spread of the virus. But it was too late. Cases and deaths were continuing to increase all over Europe.

Increased awareness

After all international events were suspended from February 28th to April 12th, the FEI issued regulations, with restrictive compulsory rules, for the organisation and holding of international shows. The FEI website, in its section entitled Inside FEI/Return To Competition measures/requirements, has published all the rules that must be respected until May 31st and that will be extended if necessary. A much-needed next step will be an in-depth analysis of how events unfolded so as to identify the factors that allowed the infection to spread so rapidly. What happened in Valencia must lead to an increased awareness and acceptance of responsibility on the part of institutions, and of all involved professionals, so that this can never happen again.

Facts and figures

There were more than a hundred infected horses at CES in Valencia. Let’s look at those who helped horses and riders: Carl-Walter Fox, appointed riders’ representative by the EEF, IJRC and FEI, was put in charge to supervise the management. On the site were three Spanish vets: Raul Botella, Vincente Orts and Della Valle from the CES team; one Portuguese vet, one private Swiss vet and vets from French and German Federations. Francesco Montecchi was appointed by EEF and IJRC as assistant to Carl-Walter Fox. Montecchi was on site over two periods for a total of two weeks. Gonçalo Paixão, FEI Veterinary Manager, arrived in Valencia to establish improved lines of communication between the authorities, the Valencia Organisers and athletes. Marco Fuste, FEI Jumping Director, and Göran Åkerström, FEI Veterinary Director, also paid a visit to the venue in Valencia.

and again from the IJRC...

IJRC helped financially to give organizational support in Valencia. The IJRC sent 50 portable stables to Valencia to create isolation areas helping with the logistics.  The French Equestrian Federation, with Quintin Simonet, have been of immense assistance organizing pit stops for horses travelling in Europe back home.  The IJRC’s Director Eleonora Ottaviani was always available for horses and riders and was in daily contact with Carl-Walter Fox, riders and vets Francesco Montecchi and Raul Botella.

The jumping athletes Emile Hendrix, Peter Charles and Frederick Goltz, built a fundraising campaign. This funds has had financial support from the FEI, IJRC, Jumping Owners Club and Equestrian Organisers.

Joining forces

In addition Riders Help Riders, a fundraising campaign set up by Axel Milkau and World of Showjumping, has joined forces with the Fund. It has been encouraging to see the number of people actively involved in providing help and support at this difficult time. A heartfelt thanks goes to the riders and to all those who have contributed in different ways to provide assistance. Finally, the IJRC is preparing a dossier to discuss with FEI Veterinary and Legal Departments.  

Dr Montecchi Raul Botella Vincents Orts Dr Montecchi Raul Botella Vincents Orts

Carl-Walter Fox Carl-Walter Fox