On Wednesday, March 9, a horse in Fonner Park’s Barn R had a high temperature and was displaying mobility issues. Blood and nasal swap samples were taken and immediately driven to NVSL in Ames, Iowa for testing.
Tests were completed on March 10, but lab results were inconclusive; therefore, additional samples were requested and sent. That same day a second horse showed similar symptoms. Regrettably, both horses were ultimately euthanized.
As a precautionary measure, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture was notified and discussed the matter with the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission, Nebraska state veterinarian, Dr. David Radechel DVM and the Fonner Park board of stewards. A preliminary 21-day quarantine was placed on Barn R, which stalls over 100 horses. On the evening of March 11, lab results were released and proved positive for the neurological equine herpes virus known as EHV-1.
On the morning of March 11, a meeting with the horsemen was held in the Fonner Park racing office and a plan of precaution was discussed which included input from the Nebraska HBPA executive board and other board members.
Tom Sage, Director of the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission, closed his remarks by reminding the room that the HBPA motto is “Horsemen helping Horsemen.” The resulting precautions disallow any horsemen with horses in barn R to have contact with any other horses in the stable area. Also, any horses that arrive may not leave the entire stable area until the quarantine is lifted. Fonner Park has begun protocol to routinely sanitize the paddock, the starting gate and other common areas for horses.
“We enacted immediate protocol and now we must adhere to and increase our measures of safety,” said CEO Chris Kotulak. “In 2020 we didn’t become known as ‘The Little Track That Could’ because we gave up. Instead, we galvanized to succeed. Everyone knows they have a role to play in our return to normalcy. Sadly, there are many in the stable area now shut down from earning a paycheck to feed themselves and their horses.”