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Experience with virus leaves us hugging our horses more

Lead Summary
mavis fodness, reporter

The saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” was never more poignant in describing my experience at this year’s state 4-H horse show.
Unbeknownst to me, a Clay County mother and daughter were dealing with a nightmare the day after the Rock County delegation pulled onto the state fairgrounds Sept. 17. The Brown family’s horse named Brick was having trouble moving. No amount of coaxing from her tenth-grade owner could get her to move.
By late afternoon the brown mare could no longer stand. The family made the decision to euthanize the 13-year-old horse.
The picture, posted on the mother’s social media page, shows Brick lying in the stall with the daughter crying as she hugged the equine for the final time. Another person, possibly her mother, is hugging her and the horse as well.
As a horse owner, I understand the bond that develops between horse and rider. The animals are members of the family. The bond becomes strong as 4-H’ers and their horses spend hours at home together as they earn trips to compete at the state level.
The horse that my family took to the state fair this year has been a family member for 10 years.
What makes the Brown family’s story even more heartbreaking is the public forum that followed their horse’s illness and subsequent death.
Because veterinarians didn’t know what caused the horse’s health decline, they assumed the worst until lab results ruled out the neurological disease, equine herpesvirus or EHV.
The Twin Cities media picked up on the story as rumors swirled around the fairgrounds as to what killed the horse.
In the horse world, EHV is among the annual vaccinations. The yearly vaccinations lower the amount of virus shed into the environment and the risk of exposure.
We have learned to take biosecurity measures of not sharing buckets, limiting nose-to-nose contact and washing our hands to prevent the spread of any disease.
Most of the time EHV is inactive in a horse but can become active if the animal is stressed by strenuous exercise or long-distance travel.
Clay County, like Rock County, is hundreds of miles from St. Paul.
Some exhibitors immediately left the state fairgrounds but because of the distance to home, the Rock County delegation stayed.
We bought thermometers.
All the 4-H’ers learned to take their horses’ temperatures twice a day and learned there is no concern of a high temp until 102 degrees is reached.
Many people accused the Brown family of bringing a sick horse to the fairgrounds. A public meeting with all the exhibitors on Sept. 18 shared the horse’s rapid decline. Our delegation quickly developed sympathy while closely monitoring our own horses’ health.
We came back to Rock County, quarantined our animals and waited. On Sept. 22, when test results came back negative, our ponies were reunited with the other horses at home. Collectively we breathed a sign of relief. We still don’t know what caused Brick’s quick decline in health.
Since then, we’ve all given our horses an extra pat and a few more hugs 

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