A vet who is running 100 kilometres in a month in aid of equine grass sickness hopes there will one day be a cure for the disease, and said telling an owner their horse has the condition “never gets any easier”.
Mairi Sinclair, of Ardene House Vet Practice in Aberdeen, took on the challenge of running 100km in October while raising funds for the Equine Grass Sickness Fund. The charity undertakes vital research into the disease and provides support and information for owners.
Mairi, who is a keen eventer, told H&H the challenge started off as a personal goal while she took a year out from riding, but she decided to turn the challenge into a fundraiser.
“I’m definitely not a runner but I think running is one of those things if you make a start it’s amazing how quickly you get used to it,” she said. “I started doing a few days of 3K and a week of 4K and now I’m running 5K five times a week.
“Because I don’t really run I wanted to make sure I’d keep doing it and my body was holding up before I created my fundraising page. To start with I thought if I can raise a couple of hundred that would be nice, but it’s gone crazy since then!”
Mairi said it was an easy decision to raise money for grass sickness.
“Of all the things we see as vets, grass sickness is one where your heart sinks as soon as you have to list it as a possible diagnosis,” she said. “As many people know it’s an absolutely horrendous condition to deal with and there’s very rarely a positive outcome.
“In Scotland we see probably more cases than the rest of the UK and as a practice we see several a year. The difficult thing is a lot of clients become friends over the years, so having to tell someone I consider a friend that’s what their horse has and there’s nothing we can do, never gets easier and it never will.”
Mairi said people often used to think grass sickness only occurred in young horses.
“I’ve seen 17-year-olds and 11-year-olds with it, and horses that have been on a yard for years or only just arrived at a yard – it doesn’t seem to follow the rules that we think it should,” she said. “We do get some chronic cases that survive but usually that is through a very long recovery, and the owners who get their horses through that are usually emotionally and physically exhausted by the end of it. It’s certainly not something to go into without being prepared for any outcome.
“We all want to treat horses and make them better and grass sickness is one of those conditions that no matter how early we suspect it there’s no treatment or preventative thing that we can do and that’s awful.”
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Mairi has run 57.6km to date and raised £1,350.
“I’ve got eight 5Ks then a 3K left – which sounds a lot when I say it out loud but I’m slightly ahead of schedule. It’s been a challenge but because I haven’t been riding it’s slotted into that gap and I’ll run before or after work. Knowing it’s a fundraiser is really powering me on,” she said.
“I’m so amazed by how generous people have been. The total I’ve raised so far has certainly made every kilometre worthwhile. A lot of people who have donated have said either they’ve had a personal experience with grass sickness or they live in fear that one day they’ll hear those words from their vet about their horse. Everyone wants the same solution – either to be able to treat it or prevent it.”
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