Dr. David Priest comments on veterinary life amid COVID-19 and specifically on its impacts in the Kentucky horseracing community.
Dr. David Priest is a PBEC veterinarian who treats horses in Florida during the fall and winter and operates in his home state of Kentucky during the spring and summer. Dr. Priest primarily focuses on high performance racehorses with a special interest in respiratory function and surgery. As Coronavirus closures swept the nation and all factions of horse sport, Dr. Priest has been a prime witness to the impacts on the racing community from the bluegrass state.
By the time I returned to my family’s farm and residence in Kentucky on March 26, the commonwealth had already issued a stay at home order. The normally incredibly busy Keeneland Racecourse April Sale had been cancelled with no horses being allowed to stable at that track. I wasn’t surprised by that decision, given the circumstances, but it certainly had a profound impact on the horse industry and racing in Kentucky.
My normal daily care of horses at Keeneland during April, which is typically my busiest month, was non-existent. However, as a veterinarian and farm owner, I consider myself incredibly fortunate during this challenging time. I have still been treating horses daily, primarily those with more pressing medical needs, as well as horses at my family’s farm, which includes thoroughbred lay-ups, mares with foals, and dressage horses. All in all, I feel incredibly lucky.
Tracks here and across the country have been hit hard. Trainers whose livelihood depends on racing have just been doing what they can to keep horses going and giving them time turned out if possible. Its still a waiting game on when live spectator racing will return to Kentucky.
Churchill Downs began racing without spectators on May 16. Everyone that enters the track is required to have a negative COVID-19 test performed by Churchill Downs staff. They’ve set in place required temperature checks and face masks. I work mainly at Keeneland, which is a bit more relaxed in their protocols and is now allowing stabling and training for a small number of horses.
In central Kentucky, breeding thoroughbreds is king. The yearling sales, beginning in July and peaking in September, are the lifeblood of the breeding industry. There is tremendous uncertainty about these sales and what impacts this recession will cause. People typically come from all over the world for these sales where yearlings can be bought for $500,000 to well over $1 million dollars. There may be hundreds of thousands of dollars ties up in stud fees and expenses for a single yearling. Those profits are essential to supporting the entire industry.
To say there is still a lot of uncertainty is an understatement. Personally, the real saving grace is that we can all focus on what we can control, which is taking care of our horses every day. That part hasn’t changed much at all, thank goodness for that. The rest of it is just going to have to sort itself out with time. Racing in some form will survive this. What exactly it will look like, no one can be entirely sure.
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The following information was requested by the Village of Wellington and posted at https://www.wellingtonfl.gov/767/Equestrian-Information
For the health and safety of ourselves, our loved ones and the horse community, we must adhere to the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. We are fortunate that Wellington, specifically the Equestrian Overlay Zoning District, is not a high-density area. The Village offers picturesque idyllic weather beautiful horse farms and an abundance of expertise in all facets of the equine industry. Now is a unique opportunity for those who had been occupied by hectic schedules to take a step back, de-stress and even enjoy social distancing while saddling up.
Let’s make the most of this time while awaiting the demise of the novel coronavirus by continuing to ride and train our horses. Let’s try to keep a degree of normalcy in our daily routines at the farm and use this time wisely by improving our skills as horsemen. Let’s use this time to ensure that our horses and riders are healthy, fit and ready to resume competition when the appropriate time arrives.
Adjusting to Riding and Horse Care While Staying Healthy and Safe
Spending time riding and caring for your horse is a productive use of time. However, it is imperative that we proceed safely. Suggestions that I would make to help equestrians adhere to local, state and national health recommendations include:
- Make Social Distancing mandatory at the barn. Everyone at the barn, including riders, parents, trainers and grooms, must practice Social Distancing by keeping six feet away from others. No exceptions! Do not permit individuals to congregate in the tack room or aisle ways. While in the saddle, please keep a safe distance away from fellow riders. Many facilities are limiting the number of people allowed at the barn or in the riding ring at any one time. Establishing scheduled riding times may help to streamline this while allowing everyone to participate with their horses. In addition, riders should severely limit the number of guests that they bring onto the property.
- Be vigilant with cleaning and sanitizing protocols by including surfaces and everyday objects often overlooked, such as whiteboard markers, doorknobs, stall latches, grooming brush handles, and crossties. Be mindful of disinfecting reins, saddles, and stirrups and washing brushes, polos, wraps and saddle pads. Barn staff should implement a routine of wiping down barn cleaning tools, such as pitch forks, wheelbarrows, etc.
- Make sanitizers, alcohol spray bottles or disinfecting wipes available throughout the barn. Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of this disease, so try to wash your hands upon arrival at the barn, before leaving, and insist that your staff wash their hands between handling different horses.
- Make suitable arrangements for reliable backup care in the event that you or your horse’s caretakers become sick. Organize detailed written instructions on feeding, medications and general care of your horse and provide these written instructions to the barn manager.
- Meet with your staff and grooms regularly to make sure everyone is being consistent in safety and cleaning protocols and has the most up to date information. Have them self-monitor for any signs of fever, coughing or sickness. If anyone experiences any signs of COVID-19, they should be required to remain in their homes and self-isolate to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Work with your staff to ensure they are taken care of and compensated, if possible, during sick time. Likewise, if anyone suspects that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or has travelled to areas where the virus is active within the past month, then they should not go to the barn for 14 days.
Our horses are blissfully oblivious of the pandemic, and we must remember that they still need daily attentive care. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we must adjust to help flatten the curve while remaining dedicated to the health, training and care and of all our horses. Should anyone have any questions or need assistance with caring for their horse’s health, please call Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599.
Dr. Scott Swerdlin talks COVID-19, equine veterinary medicine, and horse industry impacts with The Horse Radio Network host Glenn the Geek.
Listen to the Horse Radio Network’s interview with Palm Beach Equine Clinic President Dr. Scott Swerdlin. At about 4:30 into the video, Dr. Swerdlin talks about how veterinary clinics and equestrians are adjusting to life amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Horse Radio Network is the leading online radio (podcast) network for horse lovers worldwide.
Dr. Swerdlin is a Florida native whose family raised cattle and horses. After attending Tulane University, he pursued a master’s degree in equine reproduction at the University of Florida, and graduated from Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1976. Dr. Swerdlin was then appointed Chief of Clinical Services at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Following his tour in the military, he started a private practice in south Florida. He served on the state Board of Veterinary Medicine from 1981-1987, and received the Gold Star Award for outstanding contributions to veterinary medicine in the state of Florida. In 1999, he became a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and is licensed to practice in Great Britain.
More Coronavirus News & Updates
No matter what life may bring, our pets are here for us.
And Palm Beach Equine Clinic is here for them.
In our commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of our patients, clients and community, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is expanding to treat all four-legged members of your family.
Whether you are concerned for the health of yourself, your loved ones, or simply doing your part to flatten the curve, our team of veterinarians is here to help by prioritizing the the health of your animals.
Save yourself from the stress and risks associated with taking your pet to the veterinarian. Please contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic for your small animal veterinary needs. A team of Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians is able to care for your pets through select small animal veterinary services during this unsettling time.
Here for the Health of All Barn Critters
Whether at Your Farm or at the Clinic
- Bloodwork & Fecal Testing
- Select Medications (such as heartworm or flea and tick treatments)
- Physical Exams
Don’t hesitate to ask your Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian about the care of your pets. We are here to support you and your animals, and can provide accommodations to safely tend to your pets.
Call Palm Beach Equine Clinic for questions regarding your pets at 561-793-1599.
Updated April 24, 2020
In an executive order issued March 20, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has directed all non-essential businesses in Palm Beach County to close. As a veterinary hospital, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is an essential business and will remain open.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic is committed to the care of equine patients and will continue providing care. Our equine hospital, laboratory, and diagnostic departments are fully functioning, expertly staffed, and equipped to treat any type of equine health condition. A Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian is always available in the event of an emergency, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While our doors remain open to support clients through this distressing time, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
We greatly appreciate the cooperation and encourage those with concerns to call ahead so our team can safely accommodate you and your animals. Preventative measures such as curbside pickup/dropoff, digital paperwork, limited physical interactions, and other safety protocols are being implemented.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Coronavirus Safety Protocols
- We ask that all visitors wear a protective mask/covering. Anyone on the property, whether in the lobby or hospital, must wear a mask to protect themselves and our staff.
- Hand sanitizers have been posted to our main doors and we encourage all clients to take a pump before entering the clinic.
- Hospital visiting hours have been limited to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please speak with your PBEC veterinarian or call 561-793-1599 for any questions or clarification regarding visiting your horse at the hospital.
- Hospital access is restricted to owners of intensive care patients only.
- Owners are only permitted in the hospital for patient pick up and drop off. Please wait for patient admittance and discharge so a technician can safely assist you.
- As standard medical practice, Palm Beach Equine Clinic continues to implement high-level disinfection and sterilization of medical equipment and devices. To ensure our staff and clients are kept safe, stricter cleaning protocols have been implemented throughout the Clinic and will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
- Please limit the number of individuals present during your horse’s appointment. Our veterinarians are equipped with skilled technicians to handle your horse.
- Please be cognizant of social distancing measures even if you have no signs of illness. Please practice social distancing while at the clinic by keeping at least 6 feet apart from others. We have posted signs, laid down boundary lines from our front desk, and our staff is doing their part to physically separate from clients as best as possible.
- If you or a family member are not feeling well, suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19, or have recently traveled to areas with active COVID-19 transmission, please call the front desk at 561-793-1599 to reschedule your horse’s appointment or arrange for another person to be present at the appointment.
- We encourage horse owners and barn managers to be prepared in the event that they or their staff becomes ill and cannot care for their horse. Having a dependable backup caretaker for your horse and organizing clear instructions on feed, medications, exercise and general care is crucial to preparedness planning.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic continues to stay up to date on COVID-19 developments and will update our clients, partners and fellow equestrians as the situation progresses. Contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599 for questions or to speak with a veterinarian.
Additional Coronavirus Resources & News for Veterinary Clients
Dr. Scott Swerdlin Discusses His Thoughts on Being Strategic About Your Horse’s Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As we all know, the United States Equestrian Federation has suspended all points and ratings for the immediate future as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This unfortunately resulted in the cancellation of the Winter Equestrian Festival, Adequan Global Dressage Festival, and major equestrian competitions around the world. However, this does not mean that all riding and training must come to a halt.
For the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones, we must follow recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. We are fortunate that Wellington, specifically the Equestrian Overlay Zoning District, is not a high-density area. Wellington offers picturesque bridle paths, idyllic weather and an abundance of expertise in all facets of the equine industry. Now is a unique opportunity for those who have been occupied by hectic schedules to take a step back, de-stress and even enjoy social distancing by saddling up and exploring the endless miles of excellent bridle paths.
Let’s make the most of our time in Wellington while awaiting the unclear future of the COVID-19 pandemic by continuing to ride and train our horses. Let’s try to keep a degree of normalcy in our daily routines and use this time wisely by improving both horse and rider health and well-being. Let’s use this time to ensure our horses remain in peak performance and ready to resume competition schedules when that time arrives.
Avenues for Enhancing and Maintaining Optimal Equine Health
It is vital for teams to have a veterinarian by their side keeping a close eye on the equine athlete’s health, performance and well-being. Closely monitoring a horse’s condition is key to catching potential injuries before they progress into issues that require more serious treatments. Here are some recommendations to consider incorporating during this break in competition that may benefit your horse when its time to step back into the show ring.
Now is a perfect time to update your horse’s vaccinations and make sure your horse is ready to step back onto the showgrounds when competition resumes. Spring equine vaccinations to consider include:
- Encephalomyelitis, Eastern (EEE) and Western (WEE)
- Rhinopneumonitis (Herpesvirus)
- West Nile Virus
For horses returning to areas where Potomac Horse Fever exists, a booster for that disease is highly recommended. Ensuring your Coggins test and records are up to date is always beneficial. For questions regarding equine vaccinations, please call Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599 to speak with a veterinarian.
Maintenance & Regenerative Medicine
Allowing our equine athletes to thrive while extending their performance careers may require Sport Horse Medicine to improve their comfort, well-being and performance. Many horses benefit from having their hocks, stifles, and/or coffin joints injected. Horses must be thoroughly evaluated by a sport horse veterinarian to determine the necessity and potential benefit of maintenance medicine before any corticosteroid injection is administered.
To further address the wear and tear incurred from intense training and competition, Regenerative Medicine is a non-steroidal option for activating and enhancing the horse’s innate bodily healing process. Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers advanced regenerative therapies for treating musculoskeletal injuries, osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
- Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein (IRAP)
- Autologous Conditioned Serum
- Pro-Stride Autologous Protein Solution
Employing a holistic approach to treating patients, Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers veterinarians with a wealth of expertise in Alternative Medicine. Alternative therapies are often used in conjunction with traditional medicine and can be uniquely tailored to enhance a horse’s performance and overall health.
- Equine acupuncture and electroacupuncture
- Veterinary chiropractic manipulations
- Laser therapy (from low-level to regenerative laser options)
- Shockwave therapy
- Chinese Herbal Medicine
Reproduction & Fertility
Now may be the perfect time to plan for a future competition partner by breeding your horse. Palm Beach Equine Clinic is proud to offer highly successful Embryo Transfer program. Utilize this time to begin the breeding process by having your mare safely bred through artificial insemination, with the embryo collected 7-8 days after pregnancy. A detailed Breeding Soundness and Fertility Evaluation can jumpstart your future show ring champion. Palm Beach Equine Clinic provides veterinarians with expertise in Advanced Reproductive Services and Fertility Solutions, including:
- Stallion or Mare Breeding Soundness and Fertility
- Embryo transfer: an ideal option for mares with busy competition schedules
- Genetic cloning (geldings, mares or stallions)
- Artificial insemination and semen collection, freezing, storage and shipping
Palm Beach Equine Clinic remains open and fully equipped with a team of 40 veterinarians, 60 technicians, fully stocked pharmacy, all-inclusive equine hospital and surgical suites. Speak with a PBEC veterinarian about your horse’s health and performance by calling 561-793-1599.
To Address Raised Concerns
The spread of the novel coronavirus has raised serious concerns as the status of the virus continues to evolve. As equine veterinarians, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is here to clarify questions raised regarding the potential impact of this disease in the equine industry.
Coronaviruses include a large group of RNA viruses that cause respiratory and enteric symptoms and have been reported in domestic and wild animals. Equine Enteric Coronavirus and COVID-19 are both coronaviruses, however, they are distinctly different viruses.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infectious disease experts, and multiple international and national human and animal health organizations have stated that at this time there is NO EVIDENCE to indicate that horses could contract COVID-19 or that horses would be able to spread the disease to other animals or humans. Equine enteric coronavirus and COVID-19 are NOT the same strains and there is no indication that either are transmissible between species.
Therefore, it is important to concentrate on the health of our equestrians by being precautious and following recommendations from public health officials. Palm Beach Equine Clinic will continue to make every effort to stay informed of developments with COVID-19, and will continue to provide veterinary care to all horses regardless of the status of this disease.
A Profile of Equine Enteric Coronavirus
Equine coronavirus is an enteric, or gastrointestinal, disease in the horse. There is NO EVIDENCE that equine enteric coronavirus poses a threat to humans or other species of animals.
- Transmission: Equine coronavirus is transmitted between horses when manure from an infected horse is ingested by another horse (fecal-oral transmission), or if a horse makes oral contact with items or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected manure.
- Common Clinical Signs: Typically mild signs that may include anorexia, lethargy, fever, colic or diarrhea.
- Diagnosis: Veterinarians diagnose equine enteric coronavirus by testing fecal samples, and the frequency of this disease is low.
- Treatment and Prevention: If diagnosed, treatment is supportive care, such as fluid therapy and anti-inflammatories, and establishing good biosecurity precautions of quarantining the infected horse. Keeping facilities as clean as possible by properly disposing of manure will help decrease the chances of horses contracting the virus.
Information for this notice was compiled using the following sources:
Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/animal-health-diagnostic-center/veterinary-support/disease-information/equine-enteric-coronavirus
American Association of Equine Practitioners, Equine Disease Communication Center: https://aaep.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Outside%20Linked%20Documents/DiseaseFactsheet_Coronavirus.pdf