Top riders support awareness campaign for devastating infectious disease

  • “You are only as strong as your weakest point” is the message of this year’s Strangles Awareness Week (6-12 May) – as top names get behind the campaign.

    The awareness week, a collaboration launched four years ago by equine welfare charities, vets, and industry professionals, aims to provide education on strangles in the hope of preventing future outbreaks.

    Owners who keep their horses at Ivesley Equestrian in County Durham have shared their experiences of an outbreak in June 2023 in a series of online videos. Six of 55 livery horses tested positive for the disease, “a figure which could have been much higher had it not been for the swift action and robust security measures introduced to manage the outbreak”.

    Livery Claire Gourley’s gelding Otto was admitted to Rainbow Equine Hospital for treatment.

    “Strangles is something that we thought would never affect us, but Otto ended up so poorly that he was in hospital for nine days, five of those spent in ICU,” she said.

    “His abscesses were impinging on his swallow reflex so he couldn’t eat or drink. He needed to be tube fed and was on IV fluids. I think Otto’s story really opened everyone’s eyes as to how quickly strangles can bring a young and healthy horse to so nearly losing his battle with the illness.”

    Ivesley Equestrian owner Jonathan Cleaver spoke about the financial implications of the outbreak.

    “I first found out about our outbreak after someone asked for a refund for their competition entry, only about 15 minutes after strangles had been identified. For weeks afterwards it felt like we just haemorrhaged money, and we were very lucky to not be in the position where we faced selling off land or losing our home,” he said.

    “It is so important to be clued up on biosecurity and the latest strangles research and management, as you are only ever as strong as your weakest point.”

    Experts are calling on the equestrian community to give their horses the BEST protection from strangles by taking these steps:

    • Boost immunity by vaccinating against strangles
    • Educate yourself and others
    • Separate new horses
    • Temperature check routinely

    Leading British riders William Fox-Pitt and Richard Davison, eventing legend Lucinda Green, and influencer Riding with Rhi are supporting the campaign and have produced videos demonstrating how owners can put these measures into place.

    “I am supporting Strangles Awareness Week because I would love to see us prevent more horses from experiencing this horrible disease by doing the BEST we can for our horses,” said William.

    Equestrians taking part also have the opportunity to win prizes, with 40 items worth a total of £6,000 up for grabs, including Spillers feed vouchers, a Champion body protector and helmet, a Toggi outfit, showjumps and poles from Red Bear Equestrian, and more. To be in with a chance of winning visit the Strangles Awareness Week website and correctly answer questions relating to the four BEST actions. The competition closes 12 May.

    “We are so grateful to William, Lucinda, Richard and Rhi for voicing their support for Strangles Awareness Week and their time helping us to promote the BEST actions. As equestrians who strive for the best for their horses, they are hugely valuable voices to help show how we can all reduce the risk that strangles poses to our horses and yards,” said Lydia Duce, Redwings campaigns manager.

    “We would like to express our sincere thanks to all the brands who have supported our prize draw. With such a huge prize to be won, we would encourage every horse owner to get involved, get to know their BEST actions, incorporate these into your horse’s care, and take back control against this devastating disease.”

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