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Erica Swartz on the EHV-1 outbreak in Valencia: “It is a disaster here”

Tuesday, 02 March 2021
EHV-1 (neurological form) outbreak


Text © World of Showjumping



“It is hell here,” Erica Swartz – a Swedish showjumper with several horses at the showground in Valencia, Spain – says when speaking with World of Showjumping on Tuesday afternoon. “I really don’t have the power to talk about it, but it is so important that everyone understands how severe the situation really is. There are so many sick horses, and everyone is so sad as we feel totally helpless even though we do everything we possibly can for them.”

Erica has five horses in Valenica, and between her team they have a total of 16 horses – 12 of them are now sick. Erica arrived in Valencia with her horses on Tuesday, and competed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday before she on the morning of Sunday 21st of February noticed that one of her young horses had fever. “Already on Saturday, we had heard some rumours about horses with fever on the show ground and then on Sunday it started among our horses,” Erica tells. “Of course, I immediately decided that none of my horses would compete that day – any kind of strain would make the horses more vulnerable.” 

“This first horse had a fever for five days, but after he has been fever-free. He is still on a lot of medications though and is now in his most critical days – if we look at the pattern of the other horses here. After the first symptoms, there will be between 5-10 days before the horses show potential neurological problems. Seeing that there has never been such an aggressive outbreak of the virus before, the vets have also been a bit insecure when it comes to the development of the course of the disease,” Erica tells. 

“The two vets that were here on the showground from the beginning have been nothing but fantastic,” Erica says. “They were two vets on 150 horses! They have worked day and night and have probably not been sleeping for ten days. Now we got more vets here and we have flown in our own vet from Switzerland. However, it is still critical as there are so many sick horses. I’m not sure how many horses that have died, but it is more than stated in any information that has been published in the media.”

“Apart from the vets, it is a disaster here,” Erica tells. “It took a whole week before we could separate the horses. The horses that were healthy were stabled next to the sick ones. The Spanish authorities were here but nothing was done to improve the situation for the horses. In my opinion, someone should have come in here to take control of the situation the same day as this all started. It took so long for the help to arrive, and now it has spiralled out of control.”

“We currently have two zones here – the healthy and the sick zone,” Erica explains. “We are not allowed to have any contact at all between the zones. We have one groom in the healthy zone and it is not even possible to buy any food in that zone, so I get groceries for her and leave it by the gate to be picked up,” Erica tells.

“There are so many uncertainties right now but the only thing we are thinking about is that our horses have to survive; it is all about life and death,” Erica says. “I need anyone outside Valencia to take this serious. I get so many texts from people that feel sorry for us not being able to go home, but it is really not about that. It doesn’t matter how long I stay here; I just want to get all the horses back home alive. The rest of the world really needs to understand how horrible this is. They need to stay home and isolate their horses. You don’t want anyone to go through this!” Erica says. 

“Another aspect of this is that the suffering the horses are experiencing is totally unnecessary. If people had taken their responsibility in the first place, this would never have happened,” Erica tells. “We came here two weeks ago; and at this stage the show was still running although they knew something was going on with many horses having fever. The right thing to do would have been to not let any new horses enter the show ground; they should just have called and told us not to come. Now we have ended up in a situation like this.”

“We are all doing this because we love horses and we want the best for them, so please think twice and take your responsibility – no one wants to go through what we are going through right now,” Erica closes off. 

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