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‘Massive’ support as venue reopens following strangles outbreak

A livery yard and competition centre has re-opened to the public seven weeks after it went on lockdown owing to strangles.

Richmond Equestrian Centre in North Yorkshire announced on 13 August that all upcoming events, including its British Eventing fixture (30 August to 1 September) were cancelled. The centre reopened yesterday (3 October).

Co-owner Abigail Turnbull told H&H five of 26 horses on livery at the centre were diagnosed with the disease.

“Within 10 minutes of receiving the first diagnosis, we went on lockdown,” she said.

“Two days later a second case was confirmed. We have five different yards which we isolated; we knew which horses had been in contact with the initial one and sure enough they were the ones who went down with it.”

Abigail said all horses at the venue are now clear of the disease.

“It’s been quite intense and we’ve been really belts and braces about it,” she said.

“One horse was no longer showing symptoms of strangles and looked fine to the naked eye, but we did a guttural pouch procedure to make sure he had definitely got rid of the infection and it took multiple procedures to get rid of it. Had we not done that he would have turned into a carrier.”

Abigail wants more people to be aware of the facts around strangles.

“It’s about educating people who don’t understand it,” she said. “People can take simple steps like when they go to a competition, giving the temporary stable a quick spray down with disinfectant and not grazing at venues – it’s common sense things, but they’re so important.

“Since having strangles we’ve learnt so much and people need to realise how easy it is to get the infection. Some think if a horse has had it once they can’t get it again – but they can. Or if a horse has had strangles and looks over it, but the owner doesn’t realise it can still become a carrier.”

Richmond Equestrian has taken the Redwings’ pledge to ‘Stamp Out Strangles’. The campaign asks owners and yards to make an online pledge showing their commitment to prevent the disease by taking good biosecurity practices and agreeing to communicate openly about the disease. Richmond has also joined the SRUC Veterinary Services Premium Assured Strangles Scheme, an initiative for yard owners, gaining gold status which means they agree to testing all horses at the yard for the disease annually.

“We’ve been quite vocal about having strangles and have gained respect for doing it that way and for taking a stance. What’s been difficult is the amount of people who said we should have covered it up which I’m gobsmacked at,” said Abigail.

“If we’d opened to the public and let horses come and go the disease is so highly contagious it would have spread like wildfire. Financially it’s been a huge loss, but we’re trying to turn a negative into a positive now.”

The centre is holding an unaffiliated hunter trial on 19 and 20 October with classes from 70cm to 100cm. Entries cost £30 with a starting fee of £10 – discounted for owners who make the Redwings pledge.

“We’ve decided to reduce the start fee from £10 to £5 if people take the pledge and bring their certificates with them. We will also be collecting money for Redwings in donation buckets and hope to make it an annual event,” said Abigail.

“We can’t wait. We’re building cross-country jumps and getting the course ready. All the classes are sponsored and we have £800 in cash prizes.”

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Abigail said public support for the centre had been “massive”.

“We announced on Facebook we were re-opening and the comments have been brilliant. We’ve been inundated with people offering to volunteer at the hunter trials,” she said.

“People are glad that we’ve been honest – it’s horse welfare at the end of the day, it’s not always about making money. We’ve also had fantastic support from our vets, Redwings, the British Horse Society and the British Equestrian Veterinary Association.”

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