An Encounter With EHV-1

AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning recognized the symptoms of equine herpesvirus and was able to save his three horses.

AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning recognized the symptoms of equine herpesvirus and was able to save his three horses.

AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning
Once he discovered that three of his horses were infected with EHV-1, AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning was able to seek proper treatment for them. Journal photo.

“Truth is, I think most people are really being cautious,” says AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning, a cutting trainer  from Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Being overly cautious has saved Al’s three horses who contracted equine herpesvirus-1 while at the National Cutting Horse Association Western National Championships April 29 – May 8 in Ogden, Utah. 

Equine herpesvirus-1 myeloencephalopathy is another name for the neurologic disease associated with equine herpesvirus infections, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Neurological signs appear as a result of damage to blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord associated with EHV infection. Interference with the blood supply leads to tissue damage and a subsequent loss in normal function of areas in the brain and spinal cord. The disease is not transferable to humans. 

Al took 11 horses to the Western Nationals, but only three showed signs of EHV-1. 

“I showed starting on the 29th of April, all the way through to the 8th of May, with no sick horses, no repercussions, no anything, other than some soundness issues, which is inherent in taking that many horses to the show,” Al says.  “I didn’t really have any idea that this thing would happen. 

“My horses came back from Ogden on Sunday, (May 8), and Monday, so it was about five days before we had any outbreak,” he says. “A few days later, I believe it was Thursday, I heard that Mike Wood, who used to work for me, took a horse to Bakersfield, California, and that horse died over there. 

“It was, at that time, brought to our attention that it might be the virus that was prevalent in other kinds of horses in the past, including racehorses and hunter-jumpers, called the EHV-1 virus. That particular virus starts out with a temperature, sometimes a mild temperature, 101.5 to 102 even, and if you don’t catch it, it turns into other problems, such as a horse getting kind of wobbly, imbalanced, not very attentive, not being bright looking, that won’t lead as well, that drips from the urinary tract. So those were the signs that we had heard, so at that time, we started temping horses and then started closing things down. 

The American Quarter Horse Journal brings its readers the greatest events, introduces them to legendary horses and people, and provides tips on riding, training, racing, management and health. Subscribe today!

“After the show, I came home and started a clinic here in Arizona – I call it my Masters Clinic – and I had people come in from all over the place. My clinic was over on Saturday, (May 14),and on Saturday afternoon, we found three horses all pretty much at the same time that had had a really mild temperature but it was nothing – normally you wouldn’t even notice it – except for we were temping the horses, and when we led these horses, they were wobbly. We isolated those horses immediately and called the vet and closed this place down.” 

Al says during his clinic, the three horses who later showed symptoms of EHV-1 were never taken out of the stalls and did not have contact with other horses on the property. 

“Luckily, they had been isolated enough, since this is called a heavy virus, meaning that it doesn’t just fly through the air and jump over a fence to go get somebody. Sixty feet is the recommended isolation area, and we took those horses immediately and isolated them in another barn.” 

After the sick horses were isolated, Al says their original stalls were immediately stripped and sterilized with two kinds of specially recommended cleaning fluids. 

“Those three horses started being treated on Saturday evening with fluids, with DMSO, Banamine, aspirin once a day, some vitamins – they suggested Vitamin E and omega 3 – and Valtrex, which is a herpes virus drug for humans. We went all around the neighborhood and found those pills at all the drug stores and gathered those up, crushed them and gave them to (the horses) orally. 

And already Al can see an improvement in his horses. 

“Our horses, within two days, were looking better, but on the third day, they looked remarkably better, and today (Wednesday, May 18,) would be the fourth day, and those horses are incredibly better, to the point where we think that if a normal person would look at them and watch them move, they wouldn’t even know that they had a problem. We consider ourselves some of the lucky ones because we were right on it.” 

Al is practicing responsible herd management to protect not only his own horses, but also the rest of the equine community. 

“It’ll be 30 days before those (sick) horses are moved. That’s what’s recommended, so we’re being more careful than we possibly can be about it. Obviously, we’re playing this day by day. Everything is on lockdown for a 21-day period. That’s according to everything we’ve studied and read, that that’s the right way to do it – no horses in and no horses out.” 

AQHA’s tradition of publication excellence drives 235,000 people to read the The American Quarter Horse Journal each month, including more AQHA judges and professionals than any other publication. Are you one of the 235,000?

But the virus won’t be an issue for just the cutting-horse industry, Al predicts. 

“Don’t show, don’t go. My advice is to stay on lockdown everywhere. Just to be cautious, you never know,” he says. 

“In Ogden, I roped at a roping up there. They had lots of rope horses there and horses tied all over the place, and I had my horse there that was at the (cutting) horse show. I roped on him and did real well at the roping. Well, that’s one of the horses that did get sick. That’s outside the cutting barn. So let’s say that those (rope) horses went home, and they got around barrel-racing horses, and those horses went to the next barrel race. So you can see it perpetuating itself and mutating, so you would think that if people were going to be wise and were anywhere that there could be even the slimmest possibility that they would stay on lockdown for a 21-day period.” 

Al’s advice is simple: “Nobody should panic; they should be logical and consult a veterinarian.” 

With that said, if you are concerned, don’t hesitate to contact your personal or your state’s veterinarian. If you’re registered for a show in the next few weeks, contact that show’s management to see if the show is still going to be held. 

To help ease AQHA Select exhibitors’ minds and proactively help professionals and exhibitors make educated decisions, the AQHA Executive Committee has opted to lower qualifying points for the Adequan Select World Championship Show. The decision to lower the points was a result of the timing of the May 31 qualifying deadline for the Adequan Select and the recently reported cases of equine herpesvirus-1 myeloencephalopathy in the western United States. The Adequan Select is August 28 – September 3 in Amarillo. 

Also, as a precautionary measure, AQHA and the National Cutting Horse Association have jointly agreed to support show managers’ decisions to voluntarily cancel dual-approved cutting events this weekend (May 20-22). In addition, AQHA will work with its show managers who choose to voluntarily cancel an entire show or cutting classes that are being offered at AQHA-approved shows this weekend. This affects a total of approximately 90 shows. There is no mandatory requirement from AQHA that a show cancel, and the Association is working with state veterinary offices and industry professionals to draft some guidelines that show management can use, given concerns over the EHV-1 virus.

In light of the outbreak, many veterinary clinics are offering EHV-1 educational seminars, so don’t hesitate to equip yourself with as much information as possible. 

Click here for more details on EHV-1. 

29 thoughts on “An Encounter With EHV-1”

  1. These AQHA show judges probably helped spread EVH-1 by Judge running his fringers over each horse’s bits with out washing his hands

  2. Mr. Dunning.. or Anyone who knows.. I did’t catch the doseage on Mr. Dunning’s treatment?

  3. Thank goodness you where watching an catch them… How can we contact you to find out more about it… TY Maurlene Nelson…

  4. It sounds as if Mr. Dunning was aware of the outbreak when he held his clinic at his place…that didn’t sound very responsible to me? Just saying….

  5. It sounds as if Mr. Dunning was aware of the outbreak when he held his clinic at his place…that didn’t sound very responsible to me? Just saying….unless I misunderstood the timing of the clinic?

  6. I took it as his clinic ended on Saturday the 14. I could have been a one day clinic or a week long clinic….but I’ll give Mr. Dunning the benefit of the doubt. He’s a living legend and I for one one wouldn’t second guess his judgment. To me the article is just showing us all how to catch this early. Hopefully people wont go all crazy and just button down for awhile.

  7. OH yeah….gotta make that buck….can’t cancel a clinic in view of an outbreak, can we? (frown)

    If I had attended that clinic, I’d be ticked!

    Why should we panic…just because the virus is deadly……

    (Geez, and I liked him!)


  8. Marguerite – I think you misunderstood. The clinic ended on the 14th, he said he heard about the horse in Bakersfield on Thursday, which would have been the 12th. At that time, I don’t think anybody knew that it was going to be an “outbreak,” so you might think “hey that horse was at Ogden and so was I,” but it could have been an isolated incident. I agree with Amber and would give him the benefit of the doubt, as once he realized something was going on, he took immediate action. I doubt he was out to make a buck – he’s probably got way more bucks than he needs….

  9. First I would like to applaud Mr. Dunning for his pro-active article!! And in defense to the comments about the clinic, It sounds like to me that the full knowledge of the virus had not been known to Mr.Dunning at the time of the clinic. And how many have had horses come down with colds or temps after traveling, that are just from stress and never really turn out to be a life threatening illness? Thank you Mr.Dunning for the article.
    I believe that it is a smart idea to lockdown for 3 to 4 weeks or until there has been at least a 3 week clearance since the last confirmed case!!
    Again, I would like to thank all Associations,Vets,Trainers etc.,for the prompt info about this deadly EHV-1 virus.
    God Bless All!!

  10. ‘ “Don’t show, don’t go. My advice is to stay on lockdown everywhere. Just to be cautious, you never know,” he says.’

    “It’ll be 30 days before those (sick) horses are moved. That’s what’s recommended, so we’re being more careful than we possibly can be about it. Obviously, we’re playing this day by day. Everything is on lockdown for a 21-day period. That’s according to everything we’ve studied and read, that that’s the right way to do it – no horses in and no horses out.”

    Mr. Dunning is a professional horseman – that’s how he makes his living (and has been for a while now…). Since horses are a direct link in the chain that ties his operation together, it would be foolish for him to be only thinking about the money and not about the horses.

    The gist of this article is that he heard what the symptoms were, kept a close watch on his horses, and because of that caught the problem early! Quarantined, treated, and is following recommended procedures.

    Sounds like a professional horseman to me…

    Obviously the words of someone who is only interested in “the buck”…

  11. Please read the article thoroughly and understand what is discussed before making comments, even moreso if you are making negative comments about a person…..

    If you look at the article, Al states that he didn’t hear about the horse in California until Thursday. I believe his “Masters Clinic” is a 4 day clinic. He says it ended on Saturday, May 14th, which if my math serves me correctly, would mean it started on Wednesday, May 11th. I imagine some people may have even hauled in Tuesday to get settled before the clinic started, therefore Al would not have known about the EHV-1 outbreak until after all the people/horses there for his clinic would have already been there.

    I appreciate his candidness in explaining symptoms he recognized, as well as the treatment plan that seems to be working for his horses. It certainly doesn’t sound to me like he willingly exposed horses intentionally. Do you think he isn’t cancelling clinics/his show schedule during the month or so he will have his barn in quarantine??????

  12. Deb ~ if you check out the dates carefully, you will see that his horses had mild temps the day after the clinic was over.

  13. I think it is a very positive thing that his horses are doing better. Thanks for the great article..

  14. Its quite interesting that the Arizona State Vet seems to be in denial of any CONFIRMED cases of EHV-1 in our state even though this article seems to confirm the fact.

    I’m interested in “Alva’s comment” regarding the judges running their hands along the bits.

    When i have my horses mouthed by the vets at a futurity, I do not allow the vet to touch my horse. They can look while i open the mouth and show the teeth. I’ve been doing this for 20+ years because i have NEVER seen a vet disinfect his hands between horses.

    But it didn’t occurred to me that Judges run their hands along the mouthpiece of reiner’s bits. Do they disinfect between horses? (I’d bet not)

  15. Thank you to all with supportive comments. I’m Al’s daughter, McKenzie. Our Master’s Clinic ran Tuesday-Sat. We had clinic attendees moving in to the ranch before we were even home from Ogden. The fact is no one had any idea of what we were dealing with until the clinic was over. Al has been in contact with all the clinic attendees on a regular basis. This outbreak is no one’s fault, but it is everyone’s responsibility to deal with it in a responsible, honest manner.

  16. First, thank you for taking the time to share with us, your experience and information. I’m interested in the dosage of the Omega3, and the Vitamin E, and Valtrex that you administered. Dosage for Banamine, would that be the noraml dosage we use for colic, or did you provide a larger dosage, and or how many days.. three???

    Thank You
    Brenda Du Bois

  17. I am a Friend and Client of Al D. I called him early on May 14th to see if he was aware of the potential “Virus” situation as I had then become aware of sicknesses, possibly in CA and CO. Al, honestly, I am confident, advised that he was aware too but as yet had no issues at the Almosta Ranch. He advised me to be observent as thats what he and his Team were doing. I am confident he did not know during his Clinic that his horses would later show signs of HIV-1. This is a Guy who loves and trains horses and Riders and would always default to cautionary actions. I left Ogden on the 5th so my horses came home and are today in excellant health,perhaps cranky with twice daily temp checks etc., etc. Good Luck Everyone!! Jerry W. Rankin

  18. I am very impressed by this article. I dont think that anyone who attended the Cutting competition went there knowing that there was a deadly virus starting to spread. I also dont believe that Mr. Dunning would have had a clinic at his home if he had known that it could possibly have been fatal to other horses.
    However, he is so right that it will not just stay in the cutting world. It can spread to any event in the AQHA world…
    I applaud him for sharing this story with everyone. I also hope that each one of his horses make a full recovery…
    Karen Douglas
    San Diego, California

  19. Shame on you who criticize Mr. Dunning for sharing his story in an effort to create a high level of awareness in all of us as to how to watch for signs early on and protect our horses from this deadly disease. You can bet that he probably would not do this again after seeing some of your reactions. Remember, when you point at someone else and say they are only worried about the “money” ………there are three fingers pointing back at you! So maybe that is actually “YOUR” way of thinking and not his.

  20. Thank You Mr Dunning for sharing your story. It’s people like you who can make a difference by bringing awareness.

    My Buckskin Gelding is a 16 year survivor of this disease. He was a fighter and I was determined to save him. At that time I didn’t know how fatal this disease was. When he recovered, I was told he would never have enough stamina to be competitive in timed events. In the years since he has heeled in Team Roping where he excelled quickly. From there we moved onto Barrel Racing and were doing well when I was struck with Breast Cancer. We slowed down for a bit, but this time he saved my life! Now at 19 he is 10th in our EXCA region after only 2 races! He also dodged the bullet when he was exposed to Equine Piroplasmosis last year. His buddy(the 1 cohort in the US that contracted it) on the other hand was not.

    Best of luck to you and your horses making a full recovery!!

    Julie Porche

  21. I have been showing AQHA for 50 years (as of next year). I love the people and horses.
    When we left Ogden(horses home on Monday) no one knew about the virus. My clinic started on Tuesday, so horses arrived on Sunday and Monday. I first was informed about Mike Wood’s horse dying in Bakersfield on Friday afternoon. We began educating ourselves and questioning our vets. We were instructed to temp and check the Ogden horses starting Saturday morning. The clinic was over Saturday at noon; a few horses left to go home, 9 stayed and are still here. The horses that chose to leave before knowledege of the virus was out, have since been quarantined with no symptoms. The first signs of symtoms in my horses occured Saturday evening. The vet was here within an hour and the ranch went on shut down.
    We have been proactive and prudent to share our experience with the public for the benefit of the horse’s that might be affected. I hope that our information has helped the equine community to cope with this difficult situation.
    Anyone that criticizes or points blame at horsemen trying to do the right thing should be ashamed!
    Al Dunning

  22. Al, thanks for coming on and clearing up the date issues for the haters. 🙂 I appreciated the first hand knowledge and what we should all be looking for.

  23. Reading all CRAP you morons were commenting on about Al Dunning wanting money more, or got to make a buck. Al and all horse professionals make there living taking care of horses. No horses NO money!!!!!!!! Good Job Al Dunning !! Morons Sale your horses and find a new hobby!!!!

  24. Hi again, again I would like to know the dosage that was used concerning the Vitamin E, Omega 3, Valtrex-dosage for Equine… etc.

    Al Dunning, thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience.

  25. Thank you Mr Dunning for putting the information of your situation out here to help educate all us horse owners.
    We don’t show but do travel some with our horses, and as I look out at our new filly not quite a week old I shiver to think of such a thing hitting our place.
    Our local sale yard has a horse sale every month as do several in the country, what a nightmare this could become in a place like that.
    We too will be overly cautious while the virus hopefully runs it’s course and comes under control.
    Our prayers to you and yours in this time of adversity.

  26. My daughters and I are going to Pinto World on June 5th and show starts June 8th, do you think that is to much of a risk to go? The show oficials said the show will go on and all horses will be vet checked before entering the stall area. By then it will be a month sence the Ogen clinc was over. The show is being held in Tulsa Ok. Thanks!

  27. Hoping there is something done about this soon. Great information and thank you for sharing your article and your experience with this awful virus. Thank you also for sharing our application, ….we’re hoping that it can at least do something to help inform and eventually stop the spread of this terrble virus.


  28. As Equine professionals we commend Mr. Dunning on sharing his knowledge. It is a stressful time for all horse people at this time. Our breeding centers have been on lockdown.Our ranches have been on lockdown.This is serious business. I was happy to hear about events getting cancelled. This means our horses did not get to show, and a few of our mares did not get bred. But that is a small price to pay to keep our horses alive and well. It is easy to get upset and point fingers. ONE horse started the infection. NOT because somebody wanted it to get the disease and die, it just happened. It is up to every one of us horse owners to be responsible and stay put until this thing is contained.
    Keep up the good work Mr.Dunning!
    Kathleen Braden
    Manager/cutting horses
    Strawn Valley Ranch

  29. Thaks Al.
    Al Dunning is a class act!
    In Michigan where I live, there already has been cancellations of large shows in May and June because of the virus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *