“It’s a sad day for us, but we just felt that we’d rather have good integrity and have our clients trust us,”
Concerns about the spread of a debilitating livestock virus led organizers to cancel a western Colorado horse show at the Mesa County Fairgrounds scheduled for this weekend.
The Colorado West Paint Horse Club’s board of directors voted Wednesday morning to cancel the inaugural Colorado Canyons Color Classic, which originally reached capacity for the fairgrounds with 230 horses signed up for exhibition on Saturday and Sunday, according to Kimmer Jepson, the board’s secretary. By the time the board voted to cancel the show, all but 70 participants withdrew because of fears surrounding vesicular stomatitis.
Agriculture officials have located the disease in 11 Colorado counties, and have put animals in 91 different locations under quarantine. Horses and cattle primarily contract the viral disease, but it can also affect pigs, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas. The symptoms include painful, blister-like lesions, and the disease is spread through saliva, fluid from ruptured blisters and insects.
According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, humans can contract the disease in rare cases by handling infected animals.
Jepson said the decision was not based on a veterinary recommendation or the quarantine of animals in western Colorado. The most recent information from the Colorado Department of Agriculture indicates quarantine of three animals in Mesa County, 15 animals in Delta County and 19 animals in Montrose County.
Participants were traveling from as far away as Arizona, Wyoming, Utah and California, Jepson said.
“It’s a sad day for us, but we just felt that we’d rather have good integrity and have our clients trust us,” Jepson said, adding that the board didn’t want to alarm anyone with the cancellation but felt it was better to be safe than sorry.
It was a tough decision for board members because of all the work they had put in for the first of what they expect will be an annual American Paint Horse Association regional show.
“We’ve been working like dogs on this for six months,” she said. “But if we go ahead and tell people to come, especially from out of state, and they take it back home with them, we just don’t want to be responsible for that.”
“It’s a bummer,” said Jo Carole Haxel, Mesa County Fairgrounds manager.
The facility, which not only hosts horse shows and livestock events but also offers boarding for horses passing through the area, takes precautions against communicable disease, said Haxel.
“We work really hard to keep manure out of the spaces that would collect flies, and it’s the flies and gnats that spread disease,” Haxel said. “I completely understand, but we work really hard at the fairgrounds to keep our facility clean and we disinfect every stall, every time it’s used.”