At some point in your equine company, you may have whispered the statement, "Run like the wind, Bullseye!" borrowed from our favorite cowboy, Woody, in Toy Story. Unfortunately, if you run an equine center like the Laurel Park Racetrack in Prince George's County, Maryland, those words might turn into, "Run from the wind, Bullseye!" Upon the recent discovery of Equine Herpesvirus (EHV) at their venue: a wind nobody wants blowing in their stables!

Diagnosing the Unwanted Visitor: EHV

EDCC Health Watch, a program of the Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC), reported the unfortunate news. The virus is highly contagious, turning the equine world into a sneezing, coughing mess, leading to a slew of diseases such as respiratory illness, broodmare abortion and the particularly nasty Equine Herpes Myeloencephalitis (EHM) causing fever, weakness, urine retention, and if left unchecked, potentially paralysis. One can imagine the reaction at Laurel Park upon having to quarantine a horse that had been in contact with the EHV-infected horse. Thankfully, that horse has yet to show any symptoms.

The Frequency of EHV Cases on the Racing Circuit

EHV isn't a newcomer to causing havoc in the horse racing industry. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), EHV is one of the most common viruses affecting horses, with the potential of causing outbreaks anywhere, anytime where horses are herded together. Remember college dorms during the flu season? Yes, it's like that, except with more neighing.

EHV's Impact on Horse Health & Horse Racing

From mild respiratory symptoms to severe neurological conditions, contracting EHV can turn a sleek racehorse into an ailing patient in no time. In severe cases like EHM, it may require extensive veterinary care and, in a worst-case scenario, euthanasia. Beyond the obvious emotional toll, the financial burden felt by horse owners and the industry, in general, can be monumental. Costs can include not only veterinary bills and quarantine expenses but also lost opportunities for racing.

Preventing the Future Outbreaks of EHV

However, all is not lost in the face of EHV. Several measures can be taken to prevent future outbreaks in equine facilities. These measures include ramping up biosecurity practices such as stringent quarantine protocols, regular cleaning and disinfection of stalls and equipment, and more importantly, vaccination programs. Institutions like the AAEP recommend vaccines against EHV-1 and EHV-4, the two strains commonly associated with neurological disease.

Improving Biosecurity Measures at Racetracks & Equine Facilities

Much like the avowal to never leave spaghetti sauce unattended after a kitchen mishap, the confirmation of EHV at Laurel Park serves as a crucial reminder for maintaining strict security measures. More research is needed to fully understand the full brace of EHV within the horse racing industry. But for now, enhanced biosecurity practices that include solid quarantine protocols, staff training, and better communication channels between horse owners, trainers, and veterinarians are the order of the day.


In the end, as we navigate the muddy fields of EHV, it's essential to remember Woody's words, "Reach for the sky!" Despite the challenges, the equine industry must reach for the sky in developing effective strategies to prevent future outbreaks. That's the only way to ensure our beloved companions can eventually "Run like the wind, Bullseye!" once again.


  • American Association of Equine Practitioners. (n.d.). Equine Herpesvirus. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  • Equine Disease Communication Center. (n.d.). EDCC Health Watch. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  • Equine Herpesvirus (EHV) Confirmed at Laurel Park Racetrack. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2023, from The Horse [Exact URL not provided].