When the weather turns warmer, people get the bug to go ride their horses. Many of those that enjoy trail riding, will often travel to lovely places away from home like Morrow Mountain, Uwharrie Forest, or H. Cooper Black.
Veteran trail riders know that this also means it is time to make sure your Coggins test is up to date. For those that do not know what a Coggins Test is, let me explain. This test is for a disease called Equine Infectious Anemia or EIA. The federal and state governing agencies dictate that horses moving off the owner’s property must be accompanied by a negative Coggins test that was dated no more than 12 months prior. So, each year, if you are going to travel with your horse, you must get a Coggins test.
EIA is a disease is spread through blood contamination, usually through biting flies and other insects but could also be transferred if you were using the same needle for multiple horses (which you should never do). There is no vaccine or treatment for this disease and horses that do not die from the infection become carriers that are a source of infection to other horses. The government regulates this disease with the intent to eradicate it. The only means of doing this is to test and euthanize. Yes, I said euthanize. The only way around this is to quarantine the horse for life at an approved facility at the expense of the owner, but almost no one choses this option due to cost factors. This is not an optional test. If you move your horses off your property (sell, transport, show, etc), you must prove that your horses have been tested within the past 12 months. There are two main tests that your veterinarian can select to have your horses tested. Both tests for EIA are via blood. Your veterinarian will draw blood and send it to a lab. The lab will perform either an ELISA or AGID test. The ELISA is a faster test but has a greater chance of false positives. The AGID is the gold standard and more accurate but takes 24hrs longer to run. If you have ever been to a sale where someone was there running tests on the spot and results were available in 1 hour, that is an ELISA test. Though rapid, it is highly sensitive and if a positive test results, the test is repeated with an AGID test.
It is important to note that this test is in no way protective for your horse. It does not in any way guarantee your horse to be negative for the entire year. Your horse is still at risk of contracting EIA if they are exposed. Most of the high-risk areas of our state contain untested endemic populations of wild horses. In North Carolina, a good example are the herds of wild ponies that live around Shackleford Banks.
This is also true of other wild populations of horses that still survive in our country. These herds have this virus endemic in their ranks, meaning there are a lot of positive carriers that are not sick or showing symptoms. The biting flies that spread this disease can travel up to 3 miles between feedings to expose your horses.
You should never buy or sell a horse without a current, negative Coggins test. You should also never transport a horse to your farm/facility without verifying that the horse indeed has a current negative test. If you bring a positive horse to your farm, you are exposing all the horses in a 3-mile radius and the government will likely become involved with quarantine measures, testing, and euthanizing of all positive animals.
If you need your horse tested, you need to plan a little bit ahead as it takes time to get the results back. At our clinic, we tell people to give us at least 3 business days to get results back. Reason being, the lab takes 48 hours to run the test and we must account for shipping time to the lab. All our results come back electronically so at least we can eliminate the mail time to the clinic. In the heavy testing times of the year, the lab can get inundated with samples and we can see delays in process times. A good safe plan is to give yourself a week or two to make sure if a delay does occur, it does not mess up your trip.