The HBPA National Foundation comes to the aid of Nebraska horsemen whose horses have been in quarantine since March 10 following an outbreak of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1).
The National Jockeys’ Benevolent and Protection Association Foundation (NHBPAF) is making a monetary donation per horse to each owner and trainer affected by the closure at two stables in Fonner Park since it was confirmed that two horses died from the infectious virus.
Fonner Park is located on Grand Island, Nebraska, about 90 miles west of Lincoln.
The NHBPAF is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) fund developed by the national HBPA as a safety net for riders when other forms of assistance are unavailable or exhausted after a disaster. The foundation previously helped feed horses after equine herpes appeared in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Kentucky and an earlier outbreak in Nebraska. The National HBPA represents nearly 30,000 Thoroughbred owners and trainers in the United States.
The Nebraska HBPA is also providing affected owners and trainers with a per-horse dollar amount to use for expenses that continue to accumulate while their horses are unable to compete.
“Riders by nature are always ready to help other riders in need,” said Leroy Gessmann, chairman of the NHBPA Assistance Committee. “Without a doubt, the members of the NHBPA Assistance Committee understand the meaning of benevolence and how much it means to lend a helping hand. Riders and Amazons in Nebraska are going through a temporary struggle, and this committee is proud to join the Nebraska HBPA in providing some help through the National HBPA Foundation. I highly recommend any rider or rider to also step up and donate to the NHBPA Foundation for moments like these that may very well involve you next.”
Some 110 horses, including a handful of stable ponies, have been affected. Nebraska HBPA President Garald “Wally” Wollesen said about 90 horses that were potentially exposed to the virus but tested negative were housed in a large barn, while another 20 that tested positive were moved. to an arena with temporary stables. Wollesen said he was told that if all goes well, the horses in the large barn could be released from quarantine later this week.
All the horses were originally confined to their stables. However, for the past week, horses in the large stable have been allowed to go to the training arena, which is restricted to those horses and hot treadmills, Wollesen said. Rigid sterilization protocols overseen by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture are followed when those horses are released from their stables, he said.
“As an organization founded by horsemen and riders, we know all too well the ups and downs this industry throws at us,” said Dr. Doug Daniels, national president of the HBPA. “It is important for us to recognize those who are in trouble and, even more importantly, to act as best we can to help those who need assistance. I am proud that the Assistance Committee has chosen to use the NHBPA Foundation to help Nebraska jockeys financially during this difficult time, proving once again that we are jockeys helping jockeys.”
Wollesen said the disease outbreak has been devastating to riders.
“In the state of Nebraska, we run for very modest purses,” he said. “We race 53 days a year, that’s all. To go into quarantine for 21 days with no income, we had to do something to try to help everyone. In fact, in 2016 when it happened in Nebraska, my horses were involved. I know how it hurts.
“Everyone is very appreciative of the help that we and the National HBPA Foundation have given them. These riders haven’t earned a penny, but at least we helped them out a bit. Nebraska has a great history of horse racing fans. They started contacting me at the races and away from home, wanting to help. A gentleman purchased 11 round bales of hay and delivered them to the quarantine barn. People have donated $15 to feed a horse for a day. As sad as it is, and we had to put down two horses, Nebraskans have really stepped up to help.”