As long as there have been horses, there has been disease. But after foot-and-mouth and blue tongue we know our animals are at an increased risk. What should be done to address this?

What our experts want to see…

From horse owners

  • Accept disease control is down to YOU
  • Quarantine any new horses that join your yard and insist on seeing a vaccination certificate for any newcomers
  • Consider having a new horse tested for strangles before you buy, and having regular blood tests through the first year
  • Ensure your yard has a contingency plan in place in case disease strikes
  • Make sure your horse’s vaccinations are always up to date
  • Do NOT “rescue” low-value horses from abroad — this feeds the problem
  • Learn the basic clinical signs of disease

From the government

  • Crack the culture of intimidation among inspectors so they stop the genuine threats, not just “soft” targets
  • Animal health inspectors need to learn how to act on good intelligence — perhaps by using the National Intelligence Model
  • Spot border checks need to happen as often during the night as at daytime
  • NED needs cleaning up to remove out-of-date data
  • Better methods of communication with horse owners need to be explored
  • Work out a way by which horses’ whereabouts — and usual places of residence — can be gauged. Could the BHS livery and riding centre maps help or be adapted?

Two things government should explore

  • Can numberplate recognition technology help control illegal importers?
  • Could we ever achieve a pan-European equine database?

    For the full feature on whether we are ready to fight disease, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (19 May, 2011)