Horse owners take action to avoid VS virus

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GRAND VALLEY, Colo. A horse virus has already sickened 200 horses and cows in Colorado and even though the cases are concentrated to the Front Range, Grand Valley livestock owners are taking the threat seriously.

"Another thing just like West Nile that us as livestock owners, we're keeping a close eye on," said Joe Burtard, owner of JR's Carriage Service. "We're doing every precaution that we can in order to prevent our livestock from coming down with a virus."

The virus is called vesicular stomatitis, or VS, and it's spread mostly through flies and mosquitoes.

None of the horses for JR's Carriage Service have VS, but Burtard said he's taking steps to try to ensure they don't contract it.

"It's costly to quarantine your horse, it's costly to treat the source that they get and in addition to the cost, it's just really painful for the horses, so you just want to avoid it altogether," he said.

Flies crowd around manure in horse stalls, so cleaning out stalls more often will eliminate some of the fly population around stables.

There are also horse sprays and face covers to keep flies from landing on horses.

Symptoms of VS are mouth sores and blisters paired with loss of appetite.

"Mostly you just know your horse's personality and you know when they're not feeling well just like you know when your child's not feeling well," Burtard said.

It did prompt the Western Slope Reining Horse Association to cancel its five-day August show last week to prevent further spread of the virus.

"We just don't want to take the chance of either our horses getting the virus or contaminating the facilities at the fairground and spreading the virus to other horses and cattle," said Jan Williams, treasurer for the Western Slope Reining Horse Association.

That show was set to host 150 horses and upwards of 200 people causing the association to lost up to $50,000 by cancelling the show.

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