New Horse Health Requirements for HITS Desert Circuit

With the Desert Circuit set to kick off Jan. 22, 2013, HITS, Inc., has turned its attention to the safe arrival and settling in of equine guests at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal. New for 2013 are equine health and safety procedures designed to ensure a great show experience for all.

For the first time, the company is implementing state-sanctioned required biosecurity measures to decrease the risk of introduction and/or spread of contagious or infectious disease at the show.

"This is new this year and we support the new requirements," said Jill Westerholm, DVM, of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, in Lexington, Ky., attending veterinarian at HITS Thermal. "There has not been a confirmed case of EHV-1 (equine herpesvirus-1) in California since April, but this is a good precautionary move."

Westerholm will be assisted on-site by colleagues Annie Ubatuba, DVM; office assistant Katie Gill; and the Thermal clinic, where for the first time, chiropractic services will be offered.

The new health and safety measures employed by HITS are recommended by the California Department of Food and Agriculture's equine medicine advisory committee, among other institutional groups. Required upon entry to the Hits Desert Horse Park all horses must have certification for:

  • Negative Coggins--Veterinary documentation dated within three months (90 days) of the start of the circuit. This includes horses that originate from the state where the event is being held.
  • Health Certificate--Issued within 30 days of arrival. If the horse leaves the property of HITS Desert Horse Park, a newly dated health certificate will be required upon re-entry.
  • Event Participation Declaration--Signed by the owner/agent/trainer verifying that the horse has been healthy with no sign of infectious disease and has not had a fever above 102°F within 72 hours (3 days) of entry.
  • Proof of Vaccination--Via a signed statement from the attending veterinarian that the horse has been vaccinated against Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, rabies, tetanus, and West Nile virus within 6 months (180 days of entry); and equine influenza, and EHV-1 and EHV-4 within 3 months (90 days of entry).

These heath documents are required upon entry to the HITS Desert Horse Park and copies must be filed in the show office before any competition numbers will be issued. The results on all required papers should indicate the horse's registered (show) name.

Any horse not accompanied by these documents will be directed to the show veterinary clinic to obtain the required documents and/or vaccinations. Horses showing signs of fever, illness, or stress are subject to examination by HITS officials and/or the show veterinarian who can, at their sole discretion, place the horse in quarantined stabling or take further action if deemed necessary.

"In conjunction with Hagyard Equine, which has been in Thermal for the past seven years, we're happy to be offering state-of-the-art veterinary treatment on site," HITS president and CEO Tom Struzzieri said. At the Desert Horse Park Clinic clients can access to digital radiographs, digital ultrasounds, and shockwave therapy. The clinic also offers off-site full service laboratory tests.

This year, Westerholm is pleased to be offering chiropractic services. "These horses are top athletes, and we're happy to provide any service that better enables them to perform to their full potential," Westerholm said.

Stuart E. Brown, II, DVM, president of Hagyard Equine, added, "Hagyard plans to enhance the compliment of services this year at Thermal through collaboration with the Michigan State University Sport Horse Department, led by colleague Duncan Peters, DVM, MS. Through this relationship Hagyard hope to insure the most up to date and cutting edge care and services to the horses and clients participating at Thermal."

Westerholm said the focus will be "teamwork with all the other professionals involved with the horse, to bridge that gap between the show circuit and transitioning back to home care." To that extent, an important part of the health initiative will be keeping things running as smoothly as possible.

The new equine health and safety procedure requirements are also highly recommended for those attending the HITS circuits in Ocala, Fla., and Tucson, Ariz., this winter. For more details, see the show rules and regulations located in all three online prize lists, available at

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