Redwings Horse Sanctuary has received a national award for its campaign to encourage owners to speak out on strangles.

The charity was named winner of the health and welfare category at the Animal Health Trust’s (AHT) UK Equestrian Awards, held at the London Marriott Hotel, yesterday evening (31 October).

Redwings was praised for the boldness of its ‘Stamp out strangles’ campaign, which aims to increase awareness of strangles and its prevention by removing the stigma associated with the disease.

The campaign encouraged effective biosecurity practices among owners with the ultimate aim of eradicating the disease in the UK.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have been recognised for our ‘Stamp out strangles’ campaign and wish to thank the Animal Health Trust for its support, both during our outbreak and for our ongoing campaign work,” said Redwings chief executive Lynn Cutress.

“Our own experience of a strangles outbreak affected every team in the charity; I am so proud of everyone for their unwavering dedication and support at this challenging time, and I am honoured to be accepting this award for each and every one of them as well as those who continue to lead the way in encouraging owners to speak out about strangles.

“At the time of our outbreak we felt it was essential for us to speak out immediately and continued to do so with the launch of our survey in 2016. While our herd is now disease-free, the battle rages on to remove the shroud of shame and, sometimes, ambivalence associated with strangles which sadly still allows this diseases to exist.”

The charity’s own outbreak was at one of its Norfolk farms in February 2015. At the worst point, 30 horses tested positive for strangles, many more required testing and quarantine zones were in operation resulting in costs of over £4,000 a week to contain, manage and treat the disease.

In April 2016, Redwings launched a strangles survey – which was completed by more than 2,000 horse owners – to assess attitudes to the disease and biosecurity practices.

The findings, which were presented at this year’s National Equine Forum, revealed that while there was a demand among horse owners for improved biosecurity and investment in screening, misconceptions and myths about how strangles is contracted and its preventability were common.

Redwings is continuing to share these findings with the equine veterinary community, while a free strangles information and prevention pack for livery yards and horse owners is available to download from its website.

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“The AHT has worked closely with Redwings for over two decades on better understanding the persistence of streptococcus equi, the bug responsible for strangles,” said Dr Andrew Waller, head of bacteriology at the AHT.

“The AHT’s scientists and diagnostic laboratory staff worked closely with Redwings in 2015 and together we have learned valuable lessons to better prepare owners and yards in the future.

“The AHT applauds Redwings openness in publicising that it had strangles, and its thoroughness and timeliness in dealing with the problem – we think this is a great example for others in the horse sector, which is why they are worthy winners of this year’s award.”

2017 winners

The other winners of the 2017 AHT awards were:

  • Bet Solutions international racing award – Trainer John Gosden
  • Harvey Spack Field dressage award – Para team trainer Michel Assouline
  • British Showjumping award – Rider Oliver Fletcher
  • Eventing award- Britain’s 2017 European Championships team: Nicola Wilson, Oliver Townend, Tina Cook and Rosalind Canter
  • Dr Reginald Wooldridge veterinary achievement award – Vet Anthony Stirk
  • LGT Vestra under-25 star of the future award – Dressage rider Charlotte Fry
  • Animal Health Trust special award – Lady Harris

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