Rabies Detected in Horse that Attended Celebration

A horse that was kept in stables at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., last week tested positive for rabies, state health officials announced Friday night (Sept. 8).

The 3-year-old gelding from Missouri did not compete in any of the Celebration events, according to a statement from the Department of Health.

The tan-and-black horse was kept in barn No. 50 and was ridden by owners around at the walking horse breed's premier event, held from Aug. 23-28.

Owners first noticed symptoms on Aug. 28 and the horse showed severe neurological problems in following days before being euthanized.

The greatest risk of infection from a rabid animal comes from a bite or direct contact with mucous membranes, such as the eyes, mouth or nose of the infected animal, public health veterinarian John Dunn said.

Simply attending the event, or even coming in contact with blood, urine or feces of an infected animal generally does not pose a risk of infection, officials said.

Officials said anyone who was bitten by a horse--or had an open wound or mucous membranes exposed to horse saliva - should call the state's public information hotline at 866/355-6129.

The development was the latest controversy for the Celebration, which was rocked this year after federal agriculture inspectors found evidence in some animals of soring.

The practice, banned by federal law, involves using caustic chemicals or cuts to injure horses' legs. Soring exaggerates the breed's natural high-stepping gait, forcing the horses to pick up their front legs even more. The gait is a key consideration in judging at walking horse shows

Amid the outrage among the breed's devoted owners, one trainer was banned from the Celebration for two years after he offered to pay cash to other trainers not to compete.

Mike Walden of Ooltewah said he intended the offer to help defray the costs of other trainers so they could show solidarity against the federal inspections that led the Celebration to cancel its grand champion event.

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The Associated Press

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