Horse owners in Queensland are being offered help by the Australian government following last year’s equine flu outbreak.

Equine influenza (EI) brought all equestrian movement in Australia to a standstill last August.

This was the first outbreak of EI in Australia for many years and because horses were not vaccinated they were highly susceptible to the disease.

The $600,000 scheme offered by the government includes blood testing to prove that horses are immune to the virus as well as microchipping.

The scheme is available to owners in the most severely affected parts of the country — the ‘red zone’, which covers areas in the east including Brisbane, Toowoomba and the Gold Coast — as well as owners in affected parts of southeast Queensland.

The situation is improving in Australia. Restrictions to Queensland’s EI ‘red zone’ were eased on Friday 11 January with no further cases being confirmed since December.

The 2008 Sydney Royal Easter Show, to be held from 20 March to 2 April, will still go ahead.

It has been decided by The Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales committee that 1,200 horses can compete this year, which is only a few hundred less than usual.