Headline of the week: "Horse herpes outbreak forces rodeo queens to ride stick ponies"

From KSL, a broadcaster in Utah, comes the week's oddest story: A recent equine herpes outbreak has forced "rodeo queens" to resort to "stick ponies." How did the horses get herpes? Don't ask.

Because of the outbreak, contestants at the Davis County Sheriff's Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest 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 the stick horses will test the riders' knowledge of whether they know the routine, rather than letting the horse do all the work.

(Image via ksl.com, via Jesse Dylan)


  1. “If you happen to have a problem like this later in life, you already have the experience riding a stick horse!”

    – nice, good-natured spin from the former queen.

    I got HPV, aka Horse Papilloma Virus, a couple of years ago. Maybe the horses got it the same way I did – damn, that guy gets around.

  2. The Onion’s days are numbered. For satire to survive, there must be room for hyperbole and space for things to be more absurd than the baseline. There’s absolutely nothing left, once the stick ponies start to parade around.

  3. As a horse owner, the virus outbreak is no laughing matter. It’s confirmed currently active in 19 states of the US right now. This is a mutated strain of the EHV-1 (equine herpes virus, type 1) virus which causes neurological symptoms. Mortality rates are high. And as a result, it’s shut down most of the shows and competitions in those states. It’s costing the horse industry millions of dollars. The horse industry has taken hit after hit between the recession & farm foreclosures, record high feed prices, breeders who didn’t cut back, and the infiltration of horsemeat buyers in the US riding horse market. I’m just bummed out that how much additional damage the virus is doing to the horse industry.

    Yes, the stick horse contest was silly. But it’s all us horse people can do not to cry when we see entire show seasons cancelled. Or hear of barns we know shut down by the State if EHV-1 is suspected. Or to hear of people we know whose horses died of ehv. There is no effective vaccine against the neuro strain of ehv1. All we can do is hope & pray our horses don’t come down with it.

    FWIW, it’s true that EHV-1 is virus in the herpes family. But it has nothing to do with human genital sores. Did you know that chicken pox and shingles (herpes zoster) are also in the herpes family?

    1. Not only are chicken pox and shingles viruses part of the Herpes family, they are the same. The chicken pox virus can slumber for decades inside the body (you never really get rid of it after you’ve had chicken pox), and become ‘reactivated’ thus causing shingles. It’s the same varicella zoster virus causing both.

  4. One must wonder if boys or men competing in rodeo events in the state have to use stick horses, or whether they only infantilize the girls.

  5. Did they ride to Banbury Cross?

    Also, thanks for the info, funchy. I’ve heard of EHV but didn’t know it had a high mortality rate. Sad stuff.

    1. Yeah, Jack. The horses that don’t win the races and that won’t sell to hobby riders? They go to auction. Which may initially make you think of a cute little girl taking home a new pony for cheap, but in reality a LOT of them go to Canada or elsewhere to slaughterhouses for human consumption. Or for pet food.

      1. Good, Horse is delicious, it’d be a shame for it to go to waste.

        If people can’t afford to keep it, there’s every chance it’s gonna end up dead anyway. Might as well die in a humane way, and put the leftovers to a good use.

        1. Aaaand once again here we go.

          Issue the first, the meat is tainted:

          Here’s a list of pharmacuticals I gave my horse in the last month:

          Ivermectin (dewormer) – not for use in horses intended for food
          Bute (think horsey advil) – not for use in horses intended for food
          Adequan (arthritis medicine) – not for use in horses intended for food

          Racehorses routinely get all of the above plus other drugs such as Lasix.

          People who buy horses in the US and ship them to slaughter in Mexico and Canada are supposed to have a 90 waiting period to allow these drugs to clear out of the horse’s system. By and large, they ignore this, which is why several European countries won’t buy meat from Canada.

          Issue the second, using cattle slaughterhouses to slaughter horses:

          If you’re raising horses to be slaughtered, like they do in France, that’s one thing. But slaughtering what was someone’s pet in a slaughterhouse made for a different species (cattle), is inhumane, in IMO.

  6. Even the Onion would not have named one of the contestants Savanna Steed. It’s sad that this is not satire.

  7. This happened in my state and I’ve seen the news story around the internet today. Stick ponies are funny but its really a tragic story, with horses who can’t even stand up being euthanized and families losing their incomes. BUT LOLZ STICK HORSIES!

  8. Great story and Pulitzer-worthy headline; hilarious video; sad truths, worth learning more about.

    Just the facts, ma’am:

    The gold standard — the animal equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — is the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Equine Herpes Virus type 1 (EHV-1)

    Every state also has an official State Veterinarian.

    In Utah (as of May 26), the state veterinarian says: “Currently, no events have been cancelled under state direction.”

    Two authoritative sources for state-specific info on EHV-1:

    1. your “State Veterinarian” (as they are officially called), e.g.,
    in Utah: http://ag.utah.gov/
    in Colorado: http://www.colorado.gov/ag
    and all of the rest at the AVMA’s list of State Veterinarians at:

    2. your “Area Veterinarian-In-Charge” (as they are known to distinguish them from your “State Veterinarian”) of the Federal program, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

    Panic is premature. Caution is warranted. Get the facts and don’t spread rumors: however much you love horses, love truth, too.

    Stick to it, girls!


  9. I don’t know how to explain what I feel is the connection between this news story and what happens at around 2:15 into this Rick Wakeman concert video from 1975, but trust me, as soon as you see it, you’ll know. Warning: synthesizer.

  10. Holy Shiiiiiiiitttt!

    Telecustard FTW! Skating knights defeat stick ponies.

  11. I misread the title as ‘sick ponies’. Felt bad for the horses. Now I feel bad for everyone(except the pervs and young boys who will have a field day)

    If the state vets aren’t closing down events which may spread a herpes spreads like a cold. Please tell me no known cases of horse human migration of cold like virus. I mean they are so unlike a pig(swine flu) or a bird(avian flu) or a cow(cow pox(although good for us)).

  12. Funchy is right. I live in Utah, and it’s a big deal here. I get that it’s silly that they rode stick horses, and it’s kinda funny. But this outbreak is a big deal for many people here who rely on their horses for their work and recreation. Many of my coworkers and neighbors are worried for their horses.

    One of my coworkers said that equine herpes is comparable to a dog getting parvo. They *might* survive it, but if they do, they are never the same again. It’s a sad thing.

  13. Stick horse races and barrel racing has become a humorous and common practice among youth rodeos in the south. Participants are usually preteens and it is all done in fun. If you look at the pic it looks as if it came from one of these events.
    I can’t speak on the herpes virus, but I do know that sometimes in their zeal to grab a sensational story, local news crews can get caught up in hoaxes. Several local stations in the south fell for the Super 8 viral video when it surfaced. In fact some had a link on their website for at least a week after it was revealed to be a fake.

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