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Dr. Richard Wheeler Discusses USEF Vaccination Requirement Rule Change

This fall, The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) unveiled its latest health rule requiring all horses entering a Federation-licensed competition be accompanied by documentation of Equine Influenza Virus (flu) and Equine Herpes Virus (rhinopneumonitis) vaccinations within six months of being stabled at the show. Now approaching a month of enforcement during the 2016 winter show season, the new vaccination requirements enacted by the USEF gave structure to requirements that were previously being developed and enforced on a show-by-show basis.

After Florida’s Equine Herpes (EHV) scare in February of 2013, horse show facilities began adopting vaccination requirements of their own, usually requiring EHV-1 and EHV-4 vaccines within 90 to 120 days of a horse’s arrival to the grounds.

Now, USEF specifically requires all licensed competitions comply with the same set of requirements while not increasing the workload for competition management. The six-month timeline also matches the operating procedures of international shows overseen by the FEI as well.

According to Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s own Dr. Richard Wheeler, the rule change simply makes sense.

“Most people regularly vaccinate their horses every six months anyway, so this rule should not present a disruption to current practices,” he said. “After the 2013 scare, competitions recognized the potential of closure due to infectious disease and started creating requirements which became inconsistent between shows.”

Whether directly or indirectly affected by rule change itself, an increase in awareness regarding equine infectious disease in recent years had minimized outbreaks, according to Dr. Wheeler.

“A good job is being done so far to keep a big problem away,” he added.

While efforts by the USEF, veterinarians, and horse owners alike have proved successful in keeping horses safe and healthy, Dr. Wheeler was quick to remind the equine community to not get complacent. He stresses the continuation of education and awareness.

“An increase in bio-security is the most significant benefit we’ve had as a result of these requirements,” he said. “This is the most protective measure that we have taken on as a community, and people are now cognizant of how disruptive bringing a sick horse to a show can be. We see people getting vets involved quickly and shows doing a good job of providing isolation. What’s been done in the past few years is a positive thing, but it’s important that we don’t let our guard down because we haven’t had an outbreak in a few years.”

In addition to abiding by the USEF’s six-month rule, Dr. Wheeler also suggests the individuals responsible for caring for horses continue their efforts past the gates of the facility.

“Horse shows are often condensed places and limiting the exposure of horses is difficult,” he said. “It’s important that we stay really aware, take temperatures regularly, identify sick horses, and isolate them immediately. It’s all key to prevent outbreaks.”

Thanks to regulations, always improving technology, educated veterinarians, and diligent horsemen and women, the equine community is becoming more guarded against infectious disease than ever before.

To read more about the USEF vaccination requirement, click here. The experts at Palm Beach Equine Clinic stand ready to answer any questions horse owners may have about vaccinations and the requirements needed for equestrian competitions.

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