‘Time to ditch the strangles stigma’: Redwings reveals survey

  • Redwings Horse Sanctuary has launched a strangles survey one year on from an outbreak its centres.

    The survey aims to gain a better understanding of horse owners’ perceptions of strangles and their approach to infectious disease prevention and control.

    It has been developed along with the Animal Health Trust (AHT) and the University of Liverpool and is being supported by the British Horse Society and SEIB insurance.

    “We’re all talking about strangles in tack rooms or in social media circles, but let’s have an open conversation about it,” said Redwings’s Andie Vilela.

    “Tell us your experiences and your thoughts on improving how strangles is dealt with by completing our survey and help us make combating the disease a reality.”

    The survey is anonymous and all information supplied will be kept on password-protected computer databases and not used for any other purpose.

    “The AHT has worked closely with Redwings for over two decades on better understanding the persistence of streptococcus equi, the bacteria that causes strangles,” said Dr Richard Newton.

    “The AHT applauds Redwings’ openness in publicising that it had strangles and its thoroughness and timeliness in dealing with the problem and returning its population to a strangles-free status — we think this is a great example for others in the horse sector.”

    On 19 February last year, a horse at the charity’s Piggots Farm, in Norfolk, was found to have strangles — the first outbreak in 23 years among the sanctuary’s resident herds (news, 9 April 2015).

    An eight-month battle against the highly infectious disease followed and at the height of the outbreak, 24 horses tested positive.

    Nine quarantine zones were in operation across Redwings’ Norfolk farms, costing the charity £4,000 a week to contain and treat the disease.

    “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 from the charity.

    “It just shows that no system or test is 100% effective.

    “Having the understanding and practices already in place meant we could respond to our outbreak quickly and manage it effectively.”

    The final quarantine zones were lifted in September and the charity is encouraging people to speak out about the condition.

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    “It’s time to ditch the strangles stigma and ensure that horse owners know how to identify and react to signs, and deal with an outbreak,” said Redwings’ Lynn Cutress.

    “Although our herd is now free of the disease, our battle rages on to remove the shroud of shame and secrecy, or sometimes just pure ambivalence, associated with strangles – which sadly allows the disease to continue to exist under the radar.”

    The survey runs from 8 April – 8 June at: www.redwings.org.uk/strangles-survey

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