An outbreak of strangles in the New Forest is lasting longer than expected — and has led to the cancellation of 11 out of 34 drifts, to round up ponies.

A total of six ponies have died from the disease as a result of this outbreak — but riders are being urged not to panic.

Concerned riders contacted H&H in the autumn. They told H&H that although strangles — which is a highly contagious respiratory infection — is common in the forest, this is one of the worst outbreaks they’ve seen (news, 18 September).

At the time only one pony had died.

Sue Westwood, of the Verderers of the New Forest, who manage the forest, agreed that it was “an usual” outbreak.

“It has been going on for longer than normal. Instead of the whole herd getting it, it seems to be jumping from one area to the next,” she told H&H.

She confirmed the cancellation of the drifts, adding: “This now means we’ll have to go back out later than we would like to round up any mares and foals.”

Cases started appearing in the Lyndhurst area several months ago, but have now spread to central areas.

But the Verderers said there was no need to panic.

In September head Agister Jonathan Gerrelli told H&H that “in 99% of cases they are getting over it quickly.”

Ms Westwood added that the situation now “seems to be improving” and that the Beaulieu Road Sale in November is still due to go ahead, after the previous ones were cancelled.

“There will be more stringent checks though,” she said.

Riders are warned “to use common sense” and not to let their horses eat or drink or come into contact with ponies when out on the forest.

Signs of strangles include raised temperature, nasal discharge and a cough.