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Virus should not impact annual colt sale

April 17, 2014

Leah Gaudes, Sheridan Blaschke, Jane Baery and Kaitlin Finger are students in the Colts in Training course.
Leah Gaudes, Sheridan Blaschke, Jane Baery and Kaitlin Finger are students in the Colts in Training course. Students taking this course work with these unbroken horses and care for them while training them as well. (Desi Danforth/Student Voice)

Since 1976, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls has held the colts in training sale, which showcases over 43 colts that students have worked hands on with for the entire semester.

This year’s colts have come from all over the country, such as Arizona and Texas, to undergo extensive training to be able to be sold for everything from a performance horse to a family trail horse.

Ashley Larson, an animal science major with an emphasis on equine management, is in the Colts in Training class this semester and is also a teacher’s assistant.

“The colts in training program is a class where students are assigned an unbroken horse, usually two year olds, to care for and train during the semester,” Larson said. “At the end of the semester the colts will be sold at an auction held at the school. Most of the colts are consigned, but some of them are bred at the farm.”

Nathan O’Connor, an accomplished horseman and the head of the colt-in-training program, has a number of prerequisites that students are required to take before being able to take the class.

“We want to make sure everyone who takes the colt class is safe and that their likelihood of getting hurt is minimal,” O’Connor said. “Anytime you put green riders with untrained horses it can be a disaster, so we want to make sure students are prepared. Not just anyone can take the class and they need to be an accomplished rider.”

By May 3, the horses will be ready to be sold and can go for prices ranging from the lowest priced horse last year being eight hundred dollars, all the way to the highest priced horse at $30 thousand. The sales usually go very smoothly, but this year there is one concern around the Midwest that has been brought up, and that is the EVH-1 virus.

“EVH-1 is a flu virus that can affect a horse’s neurological system. It is very contagious, and the treatment is expensive,” Larson said. “EVH-1 is not at the lab farm, but in light of the current outbreak we have heightened our bio-security measures. The consignors put their trust in us to keep these colts healthy, and it is a responsibility that we take very seriously.”

There have not been any confirmed cases of the virus in Pierce County. The last positive case was almost two weeks ago in St. Croix County, and there have been a couple colts in Stillwater that have tested positive for the virus and showed the neurological symptoms. All together, there are around ten positive cases between Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

There is restricted access at the lab farm on campus, and outside horses and riders are not allowed in during this time. The EVH-1 virus can be spread by clothes and shoes of riders that are coming from other farms, so it is encouraged that people clean and disinfect their clothing before entering.

“The virus shouldn’t have any effect on the colt sale. What a lot of veterinarians are recommending is that horses should not travel until so many days after the last positive, some say two weeks to three weeks,” O’Connor said. “Our horses have been held in the same situation for almost one hundred days at the time of the sale. There are no new horses and we are not taking any new horses at the sale.”

The sale is on May 3 and is open to the public. The preview will begin at 11:00 a.m. with lunch to follow at 12:00 p.m., followed by the auction at 2:00 p.m.