Hundreds of horses quarantined at Marion horse show



MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Hundreds of show horses are quarantined in Marion County.

The horses and their riders are in central Florida for a multimillion dollar tournament.

One horse tested positive with what can be a dangerous virus. That means none of the horses can leave the county.

They jump fences for big money, but the horses' riders may have to plan an extended stay in Marion County because their horses are not allowed to leave.

"This stuff happens. There's no way of predicting it," said horse owner Janet Cowley.

The State Department of Agriculture has quarantined nearly 1,300 animals at the horse shows in the Sun Tournament because one of the horses tested positive for equine herpes.

Horses can compete but they cannot be taken off the grounds until the state allows them to leave.

"I think they were right by being quarantined because the horses that have left the property are testing positive for it," said rider Kelsy Hileman.

"Horses come first.  We wouldn't have the horse show if horse safety wasn't our top priority," said show director Tom Struzzieri.

Struzzieri said there is one strain of herpes that can be fatal but the horse that tested positive at the show does not have that strain. He said he wonders if the state jumped the gun by ordering the quarantine.

Struzzieri said the quarantine scared away up to 700 riders and their horses.

"It's disappointing.  But I'm not sure what drives the motivation for it -- whether the motivation is science related or public relations related," said Struzzieri.

Officials said the virus can spread when a horse sneezes or coughs so, although all the horses here now are not showing symptoms, there is no nose-to-nose contact allowed.

"I think its justified for this kind of concern and these precautions, because I think that if you didn't take care of it, it could be a big problem," said Cowley.