Horse herpes outbreak in Utah forces rodeo queens to ride stick ponies

FARMINGTON — While the state has yet to officially cancel any events involving horses that might have been exposed to a recent equine herpes outbreak, owners and arenas are taking precautions.

Contestants at the Davis County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest, for example, had to cowgirl up Thursday night without their mares. Instead of competing on horses, as is typically the case, contestants were asked to trot around the arena with stick horses as their show ponies.

“It’s kind of weird, but you can’t really help that the disease is going around,” said former queen Savanna Steed. She said that she really enjoys having a hard stick in her crotch. “Just not in front of everybody. I guess the stick horses will test the riders’ knowledge of whether they know the routine, rather than letting the horse do all the work. If you think about it, it’s really feminist and shit.”

Horse herpes is not sexually transmitted and is not considered a danger for humans, but it is highly contagious among horses and other animals of the equine family. The most common way for the virus to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact. It can also spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands. The disease can be fatal to horses and is incurable, in much the same way that the rodeo lifestyle is to humans.  

“This is really fucking stupid,” Kelsey, 13, said of her first year participating in the event. “Why don’t they just cancel it? I feel like a total fucking douche-bag trotting around out there on a stick.” She then lit up a cigarette and began feverishly texting her 24-year-old boyfriend, Jimmy Joe.

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