The Sunshine Tour will be brought to an early finish after a horse started showing neurological signs similar to those associated with Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1).
The horse has been in isolation since 26 February, more than 2km away from the main competition site in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain, and despite its clinical signs, has tested negative for the virus.
The tour, which had been due to run until 28 March, will now end on Sunday (7 March).
Organisers explained this will give time for an “ordered departure of horses”.
The statement from the organisers said the horse arrived at Dehesa Montenmedio, where the showground is located, from its home yard in Belgium and was “fit and healthy” with no signs of illness.
The horse competed for the first two weeks of the tour, and on the first day of competition on the third week (22 February). Four days later (26 February), a vet notified the organisers that the horse had a fever.
“The horse was immediately isolated by the organising committee of the Sunshine Tour, in stables that are more than 2km away from the actual showground,” said the statement, adding that the FEI was notified.
“At first the [signs] that the horse was expressing appeared to be those of piroplasmosis, and the horse was given a blood test for piroplasmosis and a PCR for rhinoneumonitis, both results were negative.
“Over subsequent days both the competition vets and the FEI vets monitored the horse’s fever and condition twice a day. After a few days the fever had subsided.”
It said the horse showed neurological signs for the first time yesterday morning (4 March).
“At 4.30pm on 4 March, the organising committee of the Sunshine Tour met with the FEI, the [Spanish equestrian federation] and the ministry of agriculture where it was decided to close the show down at the end of competition on Sunday.
“The above organisations have carried out a complete risk analysis and have come to an agreement between them that to guarantee an ordered departure of the horses, the event will continue until 7 March.
“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.”
The cancellation follows the halt of the CES Valencia Spring Tour, around 800km away, in February owing to an EHV-1 outbreak.
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On Monday (1 March), the FEI announced all international competition in 10 countries on the European mainland was cancelled, with immediate effect, until 28 March. This was due to the “rapid evolution of a very aggressive strain of the neurological form” of EHV-1, that originated in Valencia and had led to outbreaks in other European countries.
The jumping tours that were already under way — including those in Portugal and Italy, as well as the now cancelled Opglabbeek fixture in Belgium and Sunshine Tour in Vejer — were allowed to continue, under strict conditions, to prevent large numbers of horses being moved at the same time.
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