Working to Stamp Out Strangles - are we making a difference?

 

A year after the launch of the Stamp Out Strangles pledge, a short survey of the horse owners and yard managers who have already made this voluntary commitment to better biosecurity has revealed some fascinating and encouraging insights.

To date, more than 1,000 pledgers have joined the campaign to help protect horses from the UK’s most common infectious disease and we would like to thank everyone who took the time to tell us if and how the pledge has impacted on them.

We know that many people pledge to help them sustain and share their existing biosecurity practices, but we wanted to know whether pledging also helps people develop new habits to help protect horses from strangles. And we were delighted that the survey data suggests pledging not only raises awareness, but can lead to practical changes in behaviour too.

Eighty-five pledgers contributed to the survey, and key findings include:

  • Three quarters of horse owners (75%) who responded said their biosecurity standards had improved in the past year
  • Almost half of yard managers we surveyed (49%) told us they had introduced or updated the way they quarantine and/or screen new horses for strangles in the past year
  • Further recent improvements to yard biosecurity were also reported by 43% of yard managers; where specified, these included allocating an isolation stable, new procedures for horse transport, staff training and routine use of disinfectant
  • More than two thirds (70%) of horse owners who took part said they would be more likely to have their horse checked and cleared of being a strangles carrier if they were infected with the disease than they would have been a year ago
  • Almost half of horse owners (48%) and nearly a third of yard managers (31%) said they would take action more quickly if they suspected a horse showed possible strangles signs compared to a year ago (the remaining respondents said they would take action equally quickly).   

We also asked horse owners and yard managers to tell us what effect their pledge and the campaign resources they receive have had overall on their behaviour, thoughts and confidence around the issue of strangles. As you can see from the charts below, the information and encouragement pledgers receive seems to be having a positive impact.

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Yard manager responses to survey

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Horse owner responses to our evaluation questions

 

  • Of the eighty-five respondents, 46% said their pledge and resources had encouraged them to improve their biosecurity
  • In total, almost three quarters of respondents (73%) said they felt more knowledgeable and confident about preventing or managing strangles
  • Almost two-thirds (65%) said they were more comfortable talking about strangles
  • Feeling part of a network was an outcome reported by three-quarters (75%) of those surveyed, this was particularly evident among yard manager respondents, 90% of whom told us they felt part of a wider group of people who care about biosecurity and are trying to improve standards of horse health

In addition to these survey findings, we were delighted that 100% of both horse owner and yard manager pledgers who took the survey said they would recommend the Stamp Out Strangles pledge to others.

Research has shown that sharing your commitment to take up a new habit increases the likelihood of following-through with those good intentions. This is reflected in some of the comments made as part of the survey, which included statements such as “It’s given us a good excuse to get things sorted that we’ve been wanting to do” and “It needed doing, we’d been meaning to for a while.”

Helping people not only understand the value of biosecurity, but working with them in ways that supports them in putting knowledge into action is key to the Stamp Out Strangles campaign. Only by making good biosecurity a normal part of everyday horse care are we likely to see a reduction in the 600 strangles outbreaks that affect the UK on average each year.

These survey results are an important part of our ongoing campaign evaluation, giving us vital feedback that suggests we are helping horse owners and yard managers implement and sustain good biosecurity practices and thereby increasing the number of horses protected from the devastation that strangles can cause.

Read more and take the Stamp Out Strangles pledge here.

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