Representatives of every part of the British equestrian industry have held a meeting in London to review the position of the horse prepare a protocol to minimise the transmission of foot and mouth disease.

Dr James Wood, Head of Epidemiologyat the Animal Health Trust, and Dr Peter Webbon, Senior Veterinary Advisor to the Jockey Club, set out the implications for the horse in all spheres of the industry and made it clear that:

  • the horse cannot be infected by foot and mouth disease

  • the horse could mechanically carry the Foot and Mouth Disease virus, such as on its feet, on equipment such as rugs, as well as on vehicles transporting it.

  • the horse can be ridden and transported subject to very strict hygene controls

    It was agreed that a detailed protocol was necessary, supported by guidance and background information. The protocol was to be circulated to the community at large and the equestrian organisations.

    These agreements were made, having recognised the absolute need of the farming industry, while accepting that a carefully managed hygiene programme enables some activity to take place in low risk areas.

    James Wood, speaking for the Industry as a whole said: “It is important thatthe industry can speak with one voice at this difficult time. Representatives from racing, breeding, the sport horse world and the charities are united, having consulted MAFF and other scientific specialists. We are confident that limited, controlled activity can take place with no increased risk of transmission. We will review the position and publish further guidance as it becomes necessary”.

    It was recognised that these guidelines would result in restrictions to some equestrian activities.

    The essential recommendations to follow are:

  • ALL UNNECESSARY MOVEMENT SHOULD BE AVOIDED.

  • Horses cannot be infected with the Foot and Mouth Disease virus and are not covered by the Foot and Mouth Disease control restrictions

  • The Foot and Mouth Disease virus can be spread mechanically by contaminated equipment, vehicles, or distributed on the feet of horses or riders.

  • To reduce any risk of such indirect spread of virus by the equestrian community, stringent hygiene precautions are essential.

  • If horses are to be moved, they must be effectively segregated for at least 14 days from all susceptible livestock. In particular, there should be no sharing of farmyards, grazing, housing, other buildings, equipment or personnel. If they cannot be effectively segregated, they should not be moved.

  • When away from home, owners must ensure that all horses avoid land where susceptible animals graze, or have been kept.

  • Whenever horses are moved, they must only be transported in thoroughly cleaned and disinfected (with a MAFF approved disinfectant), dedicated equine transport

    Strict hygiene precautions must include:

  • On leaving the premises, pick out feet and clean thoroughly. Disinfect feet with a suitable, MAFF approved disinfectant, safe to come into contact with skin. The process should be repeated whenever horses return.

  • Riders boots should be cleaned and dipped in disinfectant before and after riding

  • Particular attention should be paid to cleaning and disinfecting vehicle wheels

    Where horses are kept on premises with other susceptible livestock

  • Comply with farmer’s own disease precautions, including only leaving the premises in clean clothes.

    RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EVENT ORGANISERS

  • Cancel all activities planned on or close to land where susceptible livestock have recently been grazing.

  • Follow advice from your local MAFF DVM (tel: 0845 0504141) as to whether or not the event or show is or is likely to be situated in an infected area and should take place.

  • Ensure that the protocol above is followed by all entering the venue.

  • Provide only one combined entrance and exit and ensure that all vehicles travel over a disinfectant soaked straw bed or a suitable equivalent.

  • Only horses and pedestrians should be allowed onto the venue. Dogs and other animals should not be allowed to enter.

  • All horses should be lead over a MAFF approved disinfectant soaked straw bed immediately after unloading at the venue and before leaving.

  • All pedestrians should be required to clean and disinfect footwear on arrival at and departure from the venue.

    Representatives from the organisations below attended the meeting and fully supported all of the guidelines produced:

  • The Animal Health Trust,

    The British Equine Veterinary Association,

    The British Equestrian Federation,

    The British Horse Industry Confederation,

    The Thoroughbred Breeders Association,

    The Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,

    The National Trainers Federation,

    The Masters of Foxhounds Association,

    The National Office of Animal Health,

    The Hurlingham Polo Association,

    British Eventing,

    British Dressage,

    Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain,

    The Newmarket Stud Farmers Association,

    Greenwood Ellis and Partners (Veterinary Surgeons),

    Rossdale and Partners (Veterinary Surgeons),

    Fellowes Equine Clinic (Veterinary Surgeons),

    The European Breeders Fund,

    The Horserace Betting Levy Board,

    The British Horseracing Board,

    The Racehorse Owners Association,

    The Racecourses Association,

    The Jockey Club,

    The British Show Jumping Association,

    The Pony Club,

    The Federation International Equestre,

    The Racehorse Transporters Association