Equine charity Redwings has been forced to temporarily suspend rehoming after an outbreak of strangles at its Piggots site in South Norfolk.
Two horses have been confirmed as having strangles — which is a highly contagious respiratory infection —and have been isolated.
The first case was discovered last week (Thursday 19 February) after a routine check found it had nasal discharge.
The six-year-old bay gelding was immediately relocated to the charity’s quarantine centre.
The following day, a second horse was found to be showing symptoms and is now also in quarantine.
This is the first time in 23 years there has been a case of strangles within the sanctuary’s resident horses.
“We have extremely stringent quarantine procedures in place and every horse that comes in to the sanctuary is screened and cleared before they join a farm like Piggots,” said Nic de Brauwere, Redwings head of welfare and senior vet.
“It just shows that no system or test is 100% effective. We are very proud of, and invest a lot of time, care and resources into our quarantine systems and so if we can get an unexpected case amongst our residents at Redwings, I believe that it shows that anyone can.”
Both horses are now in treatment and are making good progress.
The Redwings veterinary team are also running tests on any horses who may have had contact with the infected equines and are using their records to find possible routes of entry.
Mr de Brauwere added that it is important for horse owners to be up-front about strangles: “It’s not a notifiable disease but it’s so prevalent and contagious that we believe anyone finding themselves suffering an outbreak should do the responsible thing and be up front and open about the situation so the proper steps get taken to bring cases and the spread to a halt.”
Redwings visitor centres remain open as usual and while rehoming has been temporarily suspended, it is hoped this will be reinstated very soon.
To access a free copy of the Redwings strangles pack, which includes information on how to manage an outbreak and how to help minimise the risk, download a PDF at www.redwings.org.uk