The annual Bridgehampton polo tournament starts on July 21, but the specter of horse herpes has put a blotch on the mood. This past winter, a pony in Palm Beach died from an extremely contagious strain of the rare equine herpes virus-1; states from Maine to California also saw outbreaks. While the disease—which some vets have traced back to a shipment of eight infected horses that arrived here in November from Germany—appears to be contained, owners have been warned to watch for high fever, cough, and unsteady back legs. Some riders are washing their boots down with bleach after each visit to the stables. “Most of the polo community had its horses in Florida at the time,” says Argentine superstar of the sport (and Ralph Lauren model) Nacho Figueras, who notes that players and owners love their horses “right after their families.” Horse herpes, far more contagious than strains that infect humans, spreads from horse to horse via feed, shared tack, shoes, nose rubbing—or even by air.
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