As rumors generally go, there was little truth to be found. I contacted the USU Extension Veterinarian and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to try and discern what the real facts might be.
During the first week of May, a cutting horse event was held at the Golden Spike Coliseum in Ogden. A horse that had attended this event had died some days later at home in Colorado. The culprit was found to be Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1), sometimes referred to as “Rhino”.
At this point no other horses have died. There have been some cases of equine illness in Utah and Idaho that have been suspect, but at this point no more EHV-1 has been confirmed. Currently, there are no quarantine situations in the State of Utah.
EHV-1 is a highly contagious disease that can spread rapidly. Symptoms include fever, coughing, runny nose, and other respiratory indications.
In rare cases, this disease can cause neurologic symptoms such as weakness and paralysis of the muscles in the hind limbs.
This virus is generally spread through nose to nose contact by horses, but can be passed through contaminated equipment.
It is important for horse owners to monitor their horses carefully and contact their veterinarian quickly if any of the suspect symptoms show up. There is no vaccine available, but ramifications can be kept in check by good management.
As a safety precaution, all officially-sponsored horse activities in San Juan County have been postponed for three weeks. There is no quarantine, however, and horses are still allowed to enter and leave the state as usual.