Nebraska remains on track for horse show season despite COVID-19 and Equine Herpesvirus-1. The Nebraska Dressage Association and Salt Creek Wranglers are not expecting their upcoming show schedules to be affected. Photo by Jenna Hubbard

COVID-19 halted the 2020 equestrian show season for Nebraskans. The 2021 season is on track to hold all scheduled events, despite facing new challenges prompted by the Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) outbreak that started in Ocala, Florida on March 3. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, EHV-1 can cause upper respiratory disease, neurological disease, abortions, and/or death for horses.

Twenty-two cases have been reported since the outbreak in March, according to the Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC). The last recorded outbreak of EHV-1 in Nebraska was in 2017.

Nebraska show associations such as the Nebraska Dressage Association (NDA) and Salt Creek Wranglers, canceled many of their shows in 2020 because of COVID-19. The CDC’s safety guidelines for COVID-19 enforced a 10 person limit on gatherings.

 “We weren’t able to have any of the live shows because it wasn’t safe to gather,” NDA President Carrie Cross said.

She said the 2021 NDA show schedule may have to make some adjustments to abide by the CDC’s guidelines. This year the NDA will offer more shows than usual; however, online shows will be added to the schedule in addition to in-person events to entice more entry numbers for NDA.

“The only difference is that we won’t be able to have our after-show potluck,” she said. 

Cross said Nebraska will likely be affected by EHV-1 with the barrel racing circuit bringing high traffic through the area, but she does not expect EHV-1 to affect events hosted by NDA at the time. 

Board members from Salt Creek Wranglers, NDA, and Lancaster Event Center plan to hold all scheduled events despite the EHV-1 outbreak and COVID-19. Cross said it will be safe to bring horses to these events as long as horses that test positive for the virus or horses that are exposed to the virus do not attend the events.

Nebraska had an outbreak of EHV-1 in 2017, and officials said they are better prepared to protect horses from the virus, according to Salt Creek Wranglers board member, Katie Cruikshank.

“Last time there was an (EHV-1) outbreak, the Lancaster Event Center did a good job of disinfecting stalls with chemicals that were known to kill the virus in between shows,” she said. “They put up sheets of disinfected plastic between stalls to make sure horses don’t touch noses and spread the virus.”

Cruikshank said she expects Salt Creek Wranglers’ shows to run as it has in the past, with minor adjustments to protect participants from COVID-19. 

She said the board will keep a close eye on the spread of EHV-1 and will be more concerned about implementing safety precautions if the virus comes closer to the area. 

Salt Creek Wranglers will hold its first show, Shaggy Show, on April 11 at the Salt Creek Wranglers’ grounds. The NDA will host its first event online. The Prairie Dressage Schooling Show will be March 5-19.

Student at University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism