New England Harness Racing
at Plainridge Park in Plainville, Massachusetts

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P.O. Box 1811, Plainville, MA 02762

Take Temperatures!

In May 2018  Dr. O'Connor and Dr. Lightbown spoke at Plainridge regarding the importance that temperatures be taken of horses before leaving their barns to race at Plainridge as mandated by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, emphasizing the the possibility that racing could be stopped indefinitely should a sick horse enter the paddock area and infect other horses.

Dr. Andersen handed out a fact sheet discussing the importance of taking the temperature of each horse and other steps that should be taken. Please note the information Dr. Andersen provided below.

Anyone might accidentally aid in causing a quarantine resulting in a major financial loss to racing. Taking temperatures can be the biggest tool in preventing a serious outbreak.

  • Know your horse’s normal temperature and take it daily, or at a minimum take it before transporting to race or anytime your horse is “not right.”
  • Clean thermometers with alcohol or a disinfectant between horses.
  • Elevated temperatures (at rest should be under 101oF – definitely should not race if 102oF or higher) nearly always show up before any signs of sickness.
  • Know each horse’s temperature (98.5-100oF)
  • Take temperatures first thing in morning, at rest, for most accurate reading.

If moderately high (100.5-101oF) and your horse was administered bute or banamine within the past 30 hours,
you may have a sick horse but the bute lowered the temperature.

Other things that help:

  • Vaccinate – but know that even vaccinated horses can get the disease. (There is no effective vaccine for some of these diseases.)
  • Keep away from other horses and never share water buckets, etc.
  • Some horses can be carriers to things such as Strangles and do not need to be exposed to a sick horse.

Your horse did not have to go anywhere to become sick.

Things to do if your horse has a high temperature:

  • Do not take it personally. It probably was NOT your fault.
  • Always be suspicious of any horse that coughs, has a nasal discharge, off feed, dull, swelling under the jaw (throat latch area), not walking normally, etc.
  • Discuss it with your local veterinarian and plan on scratching. Not discussing your concern with your veterinarian and ignoring the suspicion could end up with racing be cancelled for many weeks.
  • Work with the track or tracks where you normally race.
  • There are likely to be some false alarms where horses with elevated fevers do not become sick, but this is much better than stopping racing. (Not every high fever is a contagious disease, but any horse with a fever (102oF or above) should not be stressed by racing.

Is the threat of stopping racing real?

Yes! Strangles (bacteria – Streptococcus equi) and Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM), the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV1), seem to pop up everywhere. Currently (May 2018) there are about a dozen outbreaks of Strangles in Massachusetts, and a recent death in Maine was proven to be caused by the neurological Herpes virus. Each has shut down horse racing and horse showing across the U.S.

The following biosecurity measures are recommended:
* Dogs are not permitted on the event premises or All dogs on the event premises must be kept on a leash.
* Limit horse-to-horse contact
* Limit horse-to-human-to-horse contact
* Avoid sharing of equipment, to include tack, water buckets, brushes, wipe rags, etc.
* Avoid use of communal water troughs
* Avoid submerging end of water hoses in water buckets
* Do not allow horses to drink directly from a water hose
* Avoid tying horses to fences or gates on the event grounds
* Cover all feed and hay to prevent access by vermin, birds or other animals
* Monitor your horse frequently for signs of disease during the event
* Immediately report any sick horse(s) to designated event official or veterinarian
* Thoroughly clean and disinfect all equipment before use at the home premises
* Isolate and monitor all animals upon return to the home premises