‘There is a clear appetite for change’: strangles campaign celebrates first anniversary

The welfare charity behind an award-winning campaign combating stigma around strangles is celebrating its first anniversary and hopes poor biosecurity practices can be “consigned to the history books”.

More than 710 owners and 145 yard managers have pledged to join Redwings Horse Sanctuary’s Stamp out Strangles campaign, which provides a free online hub with information on the disease. By pledging, owners and yard managers agree to champion good biosecurity practices and to speak out on the disease.

Redwings campaigns manager Andi Vilela said the charity is “thrilled” with the reaction to the campaign, which launched in November 2018.

“We know people are more likely to make positive, proactive changes if they’ve made a commitment to do so. It’s also encouraged more yards and owners to speak out about their experiences of strangles and the stigma that sadly still exists around this disease, showing that there is a clear appetite for attitudes to change,” she said.

“The more people continue to share that they have pledged, the more we can nudge standards up so that poor hygiene facilities, absent biosecurity protocols or even keeping quiet about an outbreak will all be consigned to the history books. We want to make changes before an outbreak happens.”

Hartpury University and College, which was affected by strangles in 2018, and Richmond Equestrian Centre, which reopened in October after an outbreak, are among the yards to sign up to the campaign.

A spokesman for Redwings said Richmond’s clear communication on the disease and promotion of the Stamp Out campaign has led to more than 130 owners committing to the pledge.

“Throughout their outbreak their dedication to good biosecurity and willingness to share their experiences to educate others makes Richmond Equestrian Centre a shining example for all yards,” said Ms Vilela.

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“Their openness has not only challenged the stigma around strangles, but has demonstrated to everyone the value they place on protecting their horses from infectious disease – reflected in the amazing support they’ve received from their local equestrian community. We’re delighted that we were able to help support the centre through this very challenging time and look forward to continuing to work with the team there to raise further awareness.”

As part of the campaign the charity held a strangles symposium in March, presented to scientists in Iceland in May and held the first Speak Out on Strangles day 6 July. The spokesman added that the year is not finished yet.

“In December Redwings will be organising a free veterinary seminar for horse owners in South Wales and plans are already under way to make Speak Out On Strangles day even bigger next year.”

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