A centre for disabled riders is appealing for donations after a six-month loss of income owing to an outbreak of strangles.

Conquest Centre for Disabled Riders in Taunton, Somerset suffered the financial setback when the illness spread to nine of the 14 ponies at the yard, prompting a vet to advise a total shut-down.

Chairman of the centre Michael Babbage said: “We kept all the ponies in quarantine until a month after the last pony to fall ill was clear of the disease. Unfortunately this coincided with the end of school term and our busy season is during the term.”

Mr Babbage said that some local firms and individuals had been generous with financial aid, but the centre was still looking for donors in order to make a full recovery.

He said: “It didn’t have the same effect [in prompting donations] as Foot & Mouth disease because the public didn’t understand what strangles was.” He added: “Most of our staff are volunteers but we still had to pay the four stable hands.”

About 150 disabled riders enjoy lessons at the non-profit making centre, and there is also a small riding school for non-disabled riders.

It is believed the outbreak was triggered when a new pony, who appeared fit and well, was introduced to the yard last Christmas.

The symptoms of strangles, which is highly contagious, include a high temperature, a runny nose, cough and breathing difficulties.

For information about the Conquest Centre visit: www.conquestcentre.org.uk