In February this year, Redwings reported two identified cases of strangles at their Piggots farm in Norfolk. Strangles, a highly contagious infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat), spreads rapidly through contact with infected mucus, either directly between horses or indirectly with contaminated objects, such as feed and water containers.
The Sanctuary is highly experienced in managing and treating strangles cases as the infection can be prevalent in immunocompromised animals, such as those rescue and neglect cases taken in by Redwings; however, this was the first time in 23 years that there has been a case in the charity’s resident herd.
In addition to implementing immediate and stringent quarantine measures, restricting all non-emergency movements, mapping possible lines of contact between the patients and other horses across sites, and testing suspected cases with the help of the Animal Health Trust, the charity was determined from the outset to take an open and honest approach in communicating the strangles outbreak.
“We have always encouraged owners to speak out on strangles so we didn’t think twice about doing so as soon as it was identified at the Sanctuary. It’s time to ditch the strangles stigma and ensure that horse owners know how to identify symptoms and deal with an outbreak,” commented Redwings Chief Executive Lynn Cutress.
The charity is opening its doors on Wednesday 22nd July to horse owners who want to learn more about strangles prevention and management and learn from the charity’s own experiences. Their Aylsham visitor centre in Norfolk will host a free evening seminar, providing an invaluable insight into the disease itself, its effect on the horse, diagnosis, treatment and practical advice on how to prevent its spread with presentations from Head of Welfare and Behaviour Nic de Brauwere and Welfare Veterinary Surgeon Roxane Kirton.
“Strangles is endemic in the UK horse population meaning many live with the threat of the disease every day. It can also be infectious even when symptoms are not showing in the horse, which makes it incredibly difficult to contain” explained Nic de Brauwere. “What is important is understanding what constitutes a high risk of outbreak and how to minimise that risk.
“We have extremely stringent quarantine procedures in place at Redwings to ensure that any horse coming into the Sanctuary is screened and cleared before they join one of our resident herds. However, our recent outbreak shows that no system or test is 100% air tight. If we can get an unexpected case of strangles among our residents at Redwings, then anyone can, so we believe it is essential to share our knowledge and experiences with the horse owning public”.
Can you help Redwings beat their strangles crisis? Nearly four months on from the first identified case, Redwings is still battling strangles, although the disease has been contained to 17 horses at its Piggots farm. Previous movement restrictions and quarantine at Redwings’ Ada Cole visitor centre, Hapton farm and rehoming centre have been lifted following negative test results, but the outbreak has placed a great strain on the charity’s resources. Indeed in the first six weeks, the total cost of the outbreak was £22,650.83 – and these costs are rising every day.
Redwings is therefore also appealing to supporters for help during this crisis. From £2.50 for a haynet to £24 for test results to see if a horse has strangles.
For further information
t +44 (0)1508 481000