British showjumper Jack Whitaker is one of the many riders facing an uncertain journey home after the Sunshine Tour in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain, was cancelled.
Organisers announced on Thursday (4 March) that a horse who had previously been competing on the tour had started showing neurological signs similar to those associated with equine herpes virus (EHV-1) and that classes would be brought to a halt on Sunday, three weeks before the tour was due to finish.
“A lot of people are panicking; we’ve been told to stay put but people are trying to get out anyway,” Jack told H&H.
“I was a bit worried yesterday [Thursday] because we heard that a horse had tested positive, but there haven’t actually been any positive tests here – one of the biggest problems is all the rumours flying around.”
The horse in question had been in isolation since 26 February and, despite its clinical signs, has tested negative for the virus.
“Obviously I’m trying to keep my horses away from the other horses and I’m doing everything to keep them as safe as possible, but I’m not panicking,” explained Jack. “I will stay till Sunday then try to leave when I can. But it’s all a bit up in the air.
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“As long as you have the right health papers, you can leave whenever you like, it’s just getting the right health papers but that’s the difficult bit. They originally said it would take two weeks to get them, but today I was told we could get them more quickly, just not yet.”
Even with the right health papers, there is the worry that it might not be possible to sort out any stopover stables, which is why several British riders have made the decision to hold their horses in Spain where they at least have immediate veterinary access, rather than risking any of their horses becoming sick on the journey home.
“We need to work together to minimise the spread of this virus and we greatly appreciate the cooperation and understanding demonstrated by all the riders, owners, sponsors and other team members involved,” said the show organisers.
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