Monday, January 21, 2019

What's Behind Syndication

Faye Woolf, sponsor of Silva and Boyd Martin, on how to make a successful syndication


Often when a rider syndicates a horse, they are offering an upper level competitor with the hope of taking the horse to the next level. In the case of the Rosa Cha W Syndicate, Silva Martin imported her homebred mare Rosa Cha W from Australia and rallied a group of supporters when the mare was just starting out at training level. Silva is an accomplished rider and some of the original syndicate members, like Faye Woolf, already owned horses for Silva and a) believed in her as a rider, b) trusted her judgment where this young prospect was concerned and c) wanted to support her competitive endeavors.

Fast forward to 2014 and Silva and Rosa Cha W represented the United States at the Adequan Still Point Farm Nations Cup, where they helped bring home the team gold medal. When they performed their Freestyle on Friday night of the competition and earned fourth place individually in that class, several syndicate members were there cheering her on.

Faye, who owns Ying Yang Yo, the horse that brought Boyd to America for his first Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, recalls when Silva first reached out to her. “Silva approached me and I felt like she was an enormous talent and she deserved the help,” says Faye. “I was thrilled to be part of it. Boyd was already well-known but not so much Silva at that point and I wanted to help her make a go of it here in the United States.”

Faye used to have more time to the farm visit often and see the horses in training. Silva also rode her horse Aesthete to wins at Dressage at Devon before he was sidelined with an injury. When Stately was competing, Faye had a double reason to travel to shows; in the past year or so she has been busy with business start-ups and hasn’t had as much time to spend with the horses, but she remains strongly involved by phone and email.

“Silva doesn’t skip anything, she takes her time and lays such a solid foundation for a young horse, and seeing Rosa from 5-years-old the slow layering of her fundamentals and her progression – which I really saw when I was able to go to the shows more – is so fantastic,” Faye says. “She has really taken her time and let Rosa mature physically as well as mentally, and that’s a hard thing to do.”

Everybody chooses to own horses for their own personal reasons. Faye says, “My motivation has always been to support somebody that I feel deserves the chance, who has a great work ethic, and a great person just needs a leg up, so to speak. Becky [Holder] is also that to me, I supported her for many years in eventing and still would today. The way Silva brings horses along, her beliefs are my beliefs. It’s also critical to have a good relationship with the horse, and Rosa is a delight to be around. I wouldn’t be part of a situation if I didn’t feel that way about the horse.”

She also points out that strong partnerships are more important than competitive success, in her case. “Having grown up in eventing and it being such a high-risk sport, I don’t know if it’s my nature or whatever, horses have always been my outlet. In business you have to be competitive and in horses I don’t feel that way, maybe because in eventing you just want everyone to come home safe and sound! But my motivation isn’t competitive success; Silva is so incredibly deserving of the support because of everything she personifies, that is important to me: her work ethic, her patience, her inclusiveness. She is great to all of us and she really takes the time to make us feel part of this. She is always so gracious in her gratefulness to all of us syndicate members for helping her achieve this, and the huge bonus is her immense talent. For me, on top of all these great qualities she has as a human being and a trainer, she’s incredibly talented.”

Of course competitive success is the goal of the syndicate, and Faye confirms, “I would be thrilled for Silva to achieve competitive success. It’s de facto why you do it—to help her achieve her dreams and goals.”

Having owned horses as an individual and as part of a syndicate, Faye believes that syndication is the way forward for riders looking to succeed internationally. “In today’s time it’s so expensive to be a sole owner, and through syndication so many more people can be owners,” she points out. “I think it will allow the United States to have a deeper bench and it allows people to be part of this that otherwise would feel like they couldn’t be part of it, for whatever reason. We have the ability to field teams that are competitive and I think we’re on the upswing for that with what the dressage community is doing as a whole, defining goals and executing the tactics to reach those goals. More of us can be a part of that through syndication. We can bring more people into the structure we need, as a community, to reach those goals. That is what is so critical about the whole syndication structure.”

For riders looking to syndicate a horse the old saying, “It never hurts to ask” is 100 percent true. Faye encourages riders to just go for it. “You have to come to the realization that you may not like the answer, but you have to ask. If you’re not successful, dust yourself off and refine your message until you get a yes. Don’t be afraid!”

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Persistent Risk of Rabies

Reservoirs of the rabies virus continue to exist in the wild, posing a threat to both wildlife and domesticated animals.


Today, the threat of rabies to American horses may seem remote. Vaccination against the disease is extremely effective and affordable. And rabies is rare in the United States: Only 25 cases were reported among horses and mules in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You need not lie awake at night worrying about rabies.

But you don’t want to become complacent, either. Usually transmitted through the bite of an infected animal, rabies is invariably fatal---the virus ravages a horse’s nervous system and there is no cure. In fact, rabies has the highest mortality rate of any infectious disease---functionally 100 percent since euthanasia is the only option once signs of illness appear. And reservoirs of rabies virus continue to exist in the wild, causing periodic outbreaks of the disease that pose a risk to both wild and domesticated animals.

All of which means that even as you vaccinate your horse against rabies, it’s wise to remember the threat the disease poses and remain vigilant.

How infection happens

The rabies virus is spread through the saliva of infected animals. In the United States, the main reservoirs for the disease in the wild are raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. Rabies has been reported in every state except for Hawaii. Wild animals commonly pass the virus to others of their own kind, but susceptibility to the infection varies among species---for example, to become infected an opossum needs a dose of rabies virus 50,000 times higher than the amount it takes to infect a fox.

Horses typically become infected when a rabid animal wanders into their pasture or enclosure. Rabid animals don’t necessarily attack horses, but a curious horse may sniff the visitor, startling it and leading to a bite.

Equine rabies infection is considered “spillover” of the virus, meaning horses can contract rabies but only rarely pass it on. Routine handling or exposure to a horse’s blood, urine or feces generally does not pose a risk. However, rabies can be transmitted to a person or another animal if an infected horse’s saliva comes in contact with the eyes, nose or mouth or a skin wound or abrasion. In some cases, a rabid horse at first seems colicky, exposing people as they care for him. Later, when the true nature of the problem is determined, the owner, veterinarians and others who had contact with the horse may need to undergo preventive measures.

The damage done

Once the rabies virus enters a horse’s body, it invades the nearest peripheral nerve cell. It then replicates, passing from cell to cell, working its way to the brain. In most cases, a horse won’t show any sign of disease during the incubation period, which can last for weeks or months depending on the dose of the virus and the location of the bite. For example, a horse bitten on the muzzle may show signs of rabies within a day or two, while one bitten on the leg may not become ill for weeks because the virus must travel farther to reach the brain.

There are two forms of rabies in horses. In the “furious” form, generally seen after a bite to the head, the horse becomes aggressive and agitated before paralysis of the face and tongue sets in. The inability of these horses to drink, and their frustration with that, often gives the impression that they are afraid of water. In fact, rabies was historically and mistakenly referred to as “hydrophobia.” But a rabid horse is not afraid of water; he simply cannot drink it. A horse with the furious form of rabies can be extremely dangerous---unpredictable, aggressive and violent.

In the “dumb” form of rabies, typically seen after a bite to a limb, the horse becomes gradually more depressed and weak until he is unable to rise. With this form, the characteristic paralysis of muscles on the face and head takes longer to appear than in the furious form; when it does, it is often signaled by drooling as the virus enters the salivary glands.

Regardless of the form, the earliest stages of rabies can be confused with other diseases, particularly those with a neurological component, such as equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) or West Nile encephalitis. Misdiagnosis is more likely to occur if the bite wound goes undetected. Within a few days, however, the rapidly spreading paralysis makes it clear something more sinister is at work.

Safeguards against infection

Obviously, the best way to protect your horse from rabies is through annual vaccinations. The American Association of Equine Practitioners classifies rabies as a core vaccine, which means it is recommended for all horses regardless of life stage, lifestyle or location. Currently, three licensed rabies vaccines are available for horses; all are killed-virus products administered annually to mature horses.

Rabies is a reportable disease, which means that a veterinarian is required by law to notify public health officials about potential cases, and management of those cases must conform to state and local health regulations.

If a vaccinated horse may have been exposed to rabies---perhaps a bite wound is found on his leg, for example, or a sick raccoon is discovered in his field---a veterinarian will likely recommend the administration of a “booster” vaccination to ensure that his immune system can fight off the pathogen. (Laboratory tests to check titers of rabies antibodies in a horse’s blood are not a reliable indicator of protection, and there is no risk of overdose with another vaccination.) After the booster is administered, the horse will also be observed for at least 45 days for any signs of rabies.

If an unvaccinated horse is bitten by a rabid animal or otherwise exposed to the disease, the course of action will depend on several factors. In some cases, immediate euthanasia may be recommended. An option in other situations may be immediate vaccination followed by strict isolation and observation for signs of disease for a minimum of six months.

Finally, research by Texas state public health officials has shown that the rabies postexposure prophylaxis protocol (PEP) for domestic animals mandated by the state can be effective in preventing the disease. The Texas PEP calls for immediate vaccination against rabies, a strict isolation period of 90 days, and the administration of booster vaccinations during the third and eighth weeks of isolation. However, because of the public health implications, states and localities have regulations specifying how cases of rabies exposure must be handled; a PEP protocol may not be allowed under those regulations.

SIDEBAR: Rabies: In Brief

Definition: viral disease of the central nervous system

Signs: infection produces no signs until the virus reaches the spinal cord and brain. Once that happens, the horse may show acute (also referred to as “furious”) signs such as aggression, agitation, hyperactivity and paralysis of the tongue and face. He might also show paralytic (or “dumb”) signs, such as depression, weakness, ataxia, recumbency, paralysis and excessive salivation. If not euthanized, the horse will usually die within days.

Causes: The rabies virus is excreted in saliva of infected animals and usually transmitted through bites.

Diagnosis: No definitive laboratory test can identify rabies in a live horse. Diagnosis on a living horse is done through a history and observation of signs. Postmortem examination of the brain can confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment: Nothing can be done once clinical signs appear, which can take days, weeks or months. Immediately after known exposure, a previously vaccinated horse will be given a booster shot and monitored for a minimum of 45 days. In some jurisdictions, an unvaccinated animal may undergo a rabies postexposure prophylaxis protocol (PEP), which entails immediate vaccination, followed by booster vaccinations, and a strict isolation period lasting a minimum of 90 days.

SIDEBAR: Defending the perimeter

Keeping all wildlife away from your horse may seem like a logical defense against rabies. But as a practical matter, that’s just not possible. A better approach is to make your property as uninviting as possible to such visitors. Here are a few suggestions:

Store grain securely and neatly. Spilled or otherwise accessible feed is the wildlife equivalent of an “open for business” sign on your barn. Apply the same standards to your hayloft, keeping stacks tidy and doing a thorough cleaning at least twice a year.

Tear down abandoned buildings. A dilapidated shed you never venture into is a haven for wildlife that could harbor rabies. If you have a shed that’s unused but still in good repair, find a use for it that has you entering several times a week in a loud and obvious fashion. Regular disturbances will likely cause animals to relocate.

Consider adopting a dog. If you don’t already have a regular canine patrol of your property, look into that option. Of course, you never want a dog to encounter a rabid animal, but a vigilant presence may discourage animals from moving into the territory in the first place.