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Horse herpes outbreak forces rodeo queens to ride stick ponies

By KSL.com  |  Posted May 26th, 2011 @ 9:53pm


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FARMINGTON -- While the state has yet to officially cancel any events involving horses that might have been exposed to a local recent equine herpes outbreak, owners and arenas are taking precautions.

Because of the outbreak, contestants at the Davis County Sheriff's Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest had to cowgirl up Thursday night without their mares.

Instead of competing on horses, as is typically the case, contestants were asked to trot around the arena with stick horses as their show ponies.

The only horses in the arena were in this bucket.

"It's kind of weird, but you can't really help that the disease is going around," said former queen Savanna Steed. She said the stick horses will test the riders' knowledge of whether they know the routine, rather than letting the horse do all the work.

Utah has 13 suspected and seven confirmed cases of equine herpes virus after horses at a regional cutting horse competition at the Golden Spike Arena in Ogden first showed symptoms of the illness.

Horse herpes is not sexually transmitted and is not considered a danger for humans, but it is highly contagious among horses and other animals of the equine family. The most common way for the virus to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact, but it can also spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.

The disease can be fatal to horses and is incurable.


Instead of using horses, we are testing the girls' knowledge and ability to adapt.

–Posse Member Kim Jensen


Posse member Kim Jensen said the annual contest has already been postponed for a week to possibly wait out the quarantine, but as it is still in effect for all public arenas, the Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest had to go on.

"Instead of using horses, we are testing the girls' knowledge and ability to adapt," she said. "This will test if they know the pattern, but they are disappointed they don't have their real horses."

The contestants still showed their horsemanship, though with a little more effort.

"With a stick horse it's a lot different because you have to do all the work, and I think it's going to be a lot more tiring than with a real horse," said contestant Kylie Felter.

What really shined were the true traits of a queen: poise and personality amid trying times.

"It will give you experience for if you happen to have a problem like this later in life," Steed said with a smile. "You already have the experience of riding a stick horse!"

Ladies, we tip our hats to you.

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Story written by Nadine Wimmer and Wendy Leonard.

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