A Mule Days competitor in full riding regalia saddles up for a Thursday practice session that could lead to the Winner’s Circle.
An outbreak of the equine herpes virus (EHV) promises to have a significant impact on attendance at Mule Days this year.
Mule Days Executive Director Kim Craft said she expects business to be down 25% from a typical peak year.
Local hotel operators added that bookings are way off, with some reporting occupancy of less than 50%.
Parade entries, which normally top 100, may be a fraction of that.
EHV first surfaced at a national championship horse-cutting event held at Ogden, Utah or at the Kern County Cutting Event held in Bakersfield according to the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Both events were held earlier this month.
According to Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, the virus had infected 34 horses in nine states as of Tuesday.
Note: Equine Herpes Virus poses no human health risk.
“EHV-1 is spread primarily through coughing or sneezing, but can also be carried in fetal tissues, the placenta and uterine fluids from mares that have aborted,” according to literature from the AAEP (American Assn. of Equine Practitioners). “Studies have shown that the virus doesn’t live long in the environment, but transmission via coughing or sneezing can occur over a distance of up to 35 feet. Direct contact with infected horses as well as contaminated feed, equipment, clothing, and tack can also spread the disease.”
The EHV outbreak has caused the cancellation of many horse shows throughout the west.
UC Davis has issued seemingly conflicting reports on whether or not it is wise to move forward with scheduled events.
On the one hand, Director of UC Davis’ William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital David Wilson said, “We urge horse owners and coordinators of upcoming equine events to educate themselves on the virus and to exercise the utmost caution as they determine whether to participate in or host events that could increase their animals’ exposure to this potentially life-threatening disease.”
Sounds like a qualified okay.
As Craft said, “They’ve [entrants] read the facts [about the disease and the threat of transmission] and they feel comfortable.”
A typical particpant at Mule Days spends about $100 per animal in various entry fees, said Craft.
But then, UC Davis Equine Veterinarian Gary Magdesian said, “We encourage owners to avoid any non-essential transport of their horses, mules and donkeys.”
Though fans of events like Mule Days or any like event might beg to differ, are any of these show events really essential?
Craft said the EHV outbreak is a second hit to an event already affected by a poor economy.
Just 150 of the 550 initial mule entries are confirmed.
Sandra Martinez at Motel 6 said just 46% of her rooms were booked for Wednesday, with that occupany percentage decreasing through the weekend.
Debbie Miller at the Best Western said, “Usually, by today, we’re sold out … we’ve had a lot of cancellations.”
Miller expressed concern that the CHSRA (California High School Rodeo Assn.) might cancel its State Finals, to be held at the Tri-County Fairgrounds June 13-18.
A Fairgrounds spokesperson said Miller needn’t worry. CHSRA has not backed out.
Bottom line: If there was ever a year for locals to support Mule Days, this is it.