Staff at one of Scotland’s biggest riding schools have been praised for their proactive approach in tackling a serious outbreak of strangles, which affected 35 horses.

The stables at the Kelburn Estate and Country Centre, which is also a popular tourist attraction with an adventure course, falconry centre and woodland walks, were forced to close for three months from 26 January.

Estate owner The Earl of Glasgow, said: “The outbreak was not as disastrous as it might have been because we followed all the correct procedures and we managed to bring the disease under control in a relatively short space of time. I can’t praise my staff and the veterinary team enough for the way they handled it.”

Kate Smith, a vet at the Kilmarnock-based practice McKenzie, said the centre followed diligently the recommended guidelines for stopping the spread of strangles.

“All the horses were isolated and tested regularly to make sure they were free of the disease,” she said.

Kelburn managers set aside a quarantine area for staff to change their overalls and boots and to wash their hands. Water buckets and feed containers were disinfected daily and any areas that might have been contaminated were scrubbed with water and detergent and then disinfected.

“We decided to be upfront from the start and close the stables,” explained yard manager Kerry Russell. “We allowed owners to come and tend to their horses so long as they observed the strict infection control measures.

“We have a lot of land and were able to separate the horses into groups depending on what signs they were showing. We tested the horses regularly and those that came back negative were not treated, whereas borderline cases were kept isolated and tested a fortnight later.”