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Horse virus causes some cancellations at NM rodeo

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP)--A recent outbreak of a horse virus in New Mexico has caused some contestants in a Farmington rodeo to pull out, with others seriously considering doing the same.

Because of the virus, the Breeds and Industry Division of Equine Canada are restricting horses from returning to the country after being in New Mexico, unless they are quarantined in another state for three weeks.

Canadian equine officials strongly recommend that horse owners refrain from traveling to or going through New Mexico with their horses.

As a result, many of the Canadian contestants in the National High School Finals Rodeo are not willing to bring down their horses and are debating whether they can come to the rodeo, which runs from July 19 to 25.

The virus is vesicular stomatitis, a disease that causes outbreaks in cattle, horses, donkeys, mules and pigs. It causes painful blisters on the lips and tongue, and animals may not eat for a day or two.

This year's team from Manitoba, Canada dwindled from 16 to five or six contestants.

The situation is causing rodeo officials to seek additional people to lease performance horses.

"We always have to find horses to lease for contestants from Australia and Hawaii, but this is creating more of a need this year,'' said Beth Utley, executive director of The Tres Rios High School Rodeo Association.

There are 17 performance horses listed for lease, but more are needed.

Many rodeo officials are upset by the quarantine.

"This is a gross overreaction by bureaucrats,'' said Joe Quintana, a veterinarian at the Animal Haven Clinic.

He said only two cases of the virus were in Debaca County, which is about 150 miles southeast of Santa Fe, and that he knows of no long-term effects from the virus.

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