Oversight and Interaction

The policies are stringent. A hard line seems to have been drawn. Responsibilities have been assigned. Excruciating details have been put forth. Now the big questions is: Who?

Georgia and the USDA decided to grant waivers to allow piroplasmosis-positive horses to enter the United States later this year to compete in the Olympic games in Atlanta (see page 6, and The Horse of January 1996, pages 5 and 6). The officials representing our country--thus all horse owners--put forth a 20-point plan that details everything from housing to feed to time spent in the country for these positive horses. They even stipulated who had to pay for all these elaborate measures. The only thing they left out is: Who is going to make sure that everyone plays by the rules? Who has the authority, and the nerve, to tell some of these high-caliber horse owners, riders, and trainers--some of whom are members of ruling families of certain countries--that they have to follow the rules, and if they don't follow the rules, they have to go home?

But there are still some basic points that I'd like to consider once more. On one hand, we're disregarding our own state and federal regulations put in place to protect our native horse population against contagious and infectious diseases.

On the other hand, our officials say we're really playing tough with these new waiver regulations so we can protect our horse interests in this state and country.

I say, we already had rules in place. Either keep them, or change them. Don't "waiver" back and forth.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Horse Council, and even the FEI agree with scientific research that concludes that there is risk to our native horse population if carrier horses are allowed into the United States for the Olympics. So the point here is, can piroplasmosis-positive horses be distinguished from carrier horses? The answer seems to be that there are tests available, but that there are still questions in some corners as to the efficacy of the tests.

At Texas A&M University, Gale Wagner, PhD, said there are cell culture tests that differentiate between carrier and positive horses, but that the tests are difficult to conduct and not everyone gets the same results because of that difficulty and the skilled personnel needed to perform the test. The screen that the USDA uses is a complement fixation (CF) test, which only tells if there are antibodies present against the virus (a "positive" horse).

Wagner said there has been no research done to determine if one tick--or 100 ticks--presents a significant risk. These kinds of studies have been done in cattle babesiosis (a related blood parasitic disease), and they found that on average it takes a susceptible bovine receiving one tick bite a day over three or four days for there to be a significant risk of passage.

So I implore the equine industry, while we are haggling in the political arena about the rules and regulations not to forget the science. If it is available, use it. If research needs to be done, support it. If we can minimize risks, do it.

The Horse Online

By the time you read this, you could have read this. That statement is not as confusing as it might first appear. For those of you who have access to an internet provider (either through a private company, America Online, or CompuServe), you can access information from The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care online at http://www.thehorse.com. Much of the information that you find in The Horse will be available electronically, making storage and retrieval of health-related articles and information much easier.

Want to read about EPM? Access, read, or download recent articles from the archives. Want up-to-the-minute equine health news, including the latest on piroplasmosis and the Olympics, research, and topics of timely interest? Look for the news section updated at least weekly at our site. Want to contact the American Association of Equine Practitioners or one of the veterinary schools across the country or around the world? Just drop in to The Horse Interactive and find them. Want access to other sites, but you can't remember just what their names were? Come to us first and use us as a jumping off point to find what you need anywhere in the world.

Because of unlimited storage space (a dangerous thing to offer a writer), we can provide articles and other information that we just can't quite fit into our monthly magazine to professional horse owners, trainers, and veterinarians to use at their convenience. Original information will be available from universities, private practitioners, and equine companies, such as nutrition information, reproduction topics, and news for those who deal with the competitive athlete. Plus an ever-expanding glossary of veterinary and horse health terminology.

This is just what we're offering to start. In the works are plans to provide interactive forums with some of the top equine health professionals from around the world; question and answer sections; and interactive communications among equine professionals.

So, kick off your boots and saddle up your modem for a trip into the present, and future, of equine health with The Horse monthly magazine, and The Horse Interactive at http://www.the horse.com.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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