Equestrian events cancelled as more cases of flu confirmed

A number of non-racing equestrian events have been cancelled, as more cases of equine flu have been confirmed.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said today (8 February) that three more positive results for flu have been confirmed, from the original yard affected, taking the total number of cases there to six. Of the four horses from the yard who had raced this week, one, Raise A Spark, is among those to have been diagnosed.

It was in “anticipation of this risk” that the BHA restricted movement of horses at the yards of 120 other trainers who had runners at the same fixtures and to suspend racing. Testing of the horses at the other yards is ongoing.

A separate case, not yet confirmed as flu, has been identified at another racing yard, with no link to the first. This yard had runners at Newcastle and Wolverhampton on 5 and 6 February respectively, so the BHA has put the yards of all 54 trainers who had runners at these fixtures on hold, and initiated testing of their horses.

“The BHA is working closely with the Animal Health Trust in order to manage the logistical challenge of providing sufficient swabs and handling the volume of tests,” the association said in a statement. “It will not be possible to test every horse from every yard before the end of the weekend, but we will work with trainers to identify any priority or risk horses and ensure that they are tested. This will all form part of the picture that is built in order to assist the decisions that will be made on Monday.”

The British Equestrian Federation has said its veterinary advice “remains that it is not necessary to cancel other equine events at this time”, although it is monitoring the situation closely, and has urged owners to be vigilant.

But a number of venues have announced they are cancelling events, or taking extra precautions.

Horseheath Horse Trials, Cambridgeshire, has cancelled cross-country schooling scheduled for Sunday (10 February) and will issue refunds. Fenning Farm has also cancelled all events and arena hire, having taken vets’ advice.

Littleton Manor remains open but in a statement, staff “respectfully ask that the facilities and training are only open to horses vaccinated within the last six months”. “Please bring your horse’s passport with you to any training or facility hire and be prepared that it may be checked,” the statement said.

In line with the BEF advice, the Hunting Office is not advising a blanket ban on hunting, but added: “Hunts should consider the situation in their locality. Where there are training yards in the area it may be sensible not to hunt this weekend and await the further announcements from the BHA and veterinary groups next week which may alter our advice. Equally there will be packs operating in remote areas well away from any racing or other equestrian establishments that are able to hunt.”

The Farmers Bloodhounds has cancelled this weekend’s meet as it has “such a varied clientele coming from all over and in close proximity to some racing yards”.

FEI advice

The FEI has also issued guidance, as outbreaks of flu have also been confirmed in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Nigeria and the United States of America this year.

In a statement, the federation said: “The virus is endemic to most countries in the world and outbreaks can have a severe impact on the equine industry, potentially resulting in restrictions on horse movement and cancelled events.”

FEI veterinary director Göran Åkerström added: “Vaccinating horses is key to combating the spread of equine influenza.

“It is important all horses are vaccinated, regardless of whether or not they compete or come into contact with other horses, but there are also biosecurity measures that should be put in place, including best hygiene practices.”

All FEI horses must have up to date vaccination history in their passports and checks are carried out on entry to all FEI events.

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“Any horse that displays any signs of illness should not leave its home yard,” the statement added. “This also applies to any horse that has been in contact with a horse or horses that have equine influenza.”

FEI veterinary advisor Caterina Termine added that the Florida clade 1 virus has been confirmed in infected horses.

“Vaccinated horses have suffered only mild clinical signs of the disease and recovered quickly, but unvaccinated horses have been much more severely affected,” she said.

“The key message is, get your horse vaccinated, monitor horse health extremely closely and call your vet if you have any concerns.”

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