JEFF BAHR Grand Island Independent
GRAND ISLAND — Eight horses were scratched from Friday afternoon’s racing at Fonner Park because of a quarantine implemented amid equine health problems.
A 21-day quarantine has been placed on Barn R, where more than 100 horses are stalled. Two horses were euthanized in the last week—one on Wednesday and one on Thursday. The cause of their illness has not yet been identified.
Fonner Park Chief Executive Officer Chris Kotulak described the quarantine as a precautionary step.
“While we have yet to confirm if there has been an outbreak of a virus, we have decided to err on the side of caution and enact immediate precautions,” Kotulak said in a statement. “The livelihood of many has been affected. The health and welfare of all beings in our stable is always a grave concern. And everyone has a role to play to return to normalcy.”
The illness is believed to be the equine herpes neurological virus.
“But it is only believed that because of some of the symptoms that the horses have shown,” Kotulak said in an interview.
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On Wednesday, Kotulak was notified that a horse in Barn R had a high temperature and was displaying mobility issues.
Blood and nasal swab samples were taken and immediately driven to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. Tests were completed on Thursday and the lab results were inconclusive. Additional samples were sent for testing on Thursday.
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“That same day a second horse showed similar symptoms. Unfortunately, both horses were euthanized,” according to Kotulak’s statement.
Late Friday afternoon, Fonner Park was awaiting lab results.
The horses that were scratched Friday came from trainers who are stabled in Barn R. Horses in that barn currently are not allowed to race at Fonner.
The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has been notified. That department was involved in a discussion with the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission, the state veterinarian and the Fonner Park board of stewards.
“Among other steps, precautions have been mandated that disallow any horsemen with horses in Barn R to have contact with any other horses in the stable area,” according to the Fonner news release. “Any horses that arrive may not leave the entire stable area until the quarantine is lifted. Fonner Park has also begun protocol to routinely sanitize the paddock, the starting gate and other common areas for horses.”
Fonner will use a three-stage quarantine process.
During the first seven days of the quarantine, which began Thursday, horsemen from Barn R will be allowed to put their horses on the outdoor walker wheels. Each walker wheel will be designated for use by a specific trainer. Those wheels will be sprayed down with disinfectant after each use.
After seven days, if “there is not another outbreak, we will then allow those horses and only those horses from the R Barn to train on the training track, which is adjacent to the R Barn,” Kotulak said.
After two weeks, if there is no longer an outbreak, horses from Barn R will be allowed to train on the main track after standard training hours.
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