Piggy March gives support to 'Temp Check Challenge'

One of Britain’s leading event riders Piggy March has given her support to this year’s Strangles Awareness Week (SAW) and is encouraging all owners to take part in the ‘Temperature Check Challenge’ in a new video.

Leading equine welfare charities, vets, researchers and higher education institutions from around the world have come together to organise the week (2nd – 8th May) - now in its third year – with the aim of educating people about the highly contagious equine disease strangles and helping to prevent an outbreak.

This year, owners are being asked to take the ‘Temperature Check Challenge’ by taking their horse’s resting temperature each day and inputting the reading into a free online checker which will help them get to know their horse’s normal range - something that fluctuates by a fraction of a degree through the day according to a range of factors. A high temperature is an early warning sign that your horse may have been infected with strangles – and will become infectious to other horses - so getting to know what your horse’s ‘normal’ temperature, and variation, is could prevent an outbreak.

Piggy’s video, which aims to give horse owners tips and confidence if taking their horse’s temperature for the first time, and featuring Cooley Lancer aka Swiss Roll, is being launched across the #SAW2022 social media platforms today (Thursday 14th April).

Piggy said: “It does take a bit of pre-planning the first time you take your horse’s temperature and owners might be nervous, but it is such an easy, and effective, way to monitor your horse’s health once you’ve done it a few times with attention to making it a positive experience for the horse.

“A lot of horse owners only take their horse’s temperature when their horse is unwell but it’s such an important indicator as to your horse’s health and, whilst fever can indicate ill health for a range of reasons, it is an early warning sign that a horse has a contagious disease like strangles.

“Strangles can be very serious for a horse, and an outbreak can be debilitating for whole yards, so it’s essential that we take every opportunity to limit its transmission and allow activities to continue while responding promptly and responsibly to ill horses.

“That’s why I wanted to lend my support. I have some great people who usually do this for me in my yard, so it was the first time I’d taken one of my horse’s temperatures myself for a long time and never with Swiss Roll! I hope it gives others confidence to do the same and use the temp check challenge to hone a new habit.”

People taking the challenge will be entered into a free prize draw and contribute to a database of temperatures that will help to understand what a normal healthy range is in horses.

Strangles is the most commonly diagnosed equine infectious disease worldwide with around 600 cases reported in the UK every year. Symptoms of the contagious respiratory illness range from high fever, thick nasal discharge, depression, cough, painful abscesses, laboured breathing and difficulty eating. In severe cases strangles can pose a risk to the horse’s life.

Andie McPherson, Coordinator of SAW and Campaigns Manager at Redwings Horse Sanctuary, said: “We’re thrilled to have Piggy’s support and hope this video will help to show people who haven’t taken their horse’s temperature before how to stay safe and gain confidence with a technique that is gaining more emphasis after last year’s large and well-publicised EHV-1 outbreak. On that occasion, it resulted in the death of 18 horses normally known for their high health status, but is just as relevant for strangles and our leisure horses and family pets. It’s now a requirement for horses competing to be tested twice a day for the three days before an FEI event, as well as during the event itself.

“The temp checker, collaboratively developed by the organisations behind SAW, gives horse owners a place to record their temperatures daily and calculate an average. It aims to educate horse owners about what is normal resting temperature for their horse so they are better placed to spot a spike. If a horse rests at around 37.2 degrees for example, an increase of a degree within a 24 -hour period, especially with behavioural signs of being off-colour, could indicate fever. Horse owners may not consider 38.3 degrees as a warm horse and overlook fever so knowing your horse’s normal resting temperature is so helpful.

“A strangles outbreak can be financially and emotionally devastating for owners and equestrian businesses. Meanwhile the cost of a thermometer and building in a regular routine of checking for fever is comparatively inexpensive and, as it could indicate other infections, inflammation and give insight into health issues that explain poor performance, has benefits far beyond the identification of strangles.

“We’ve produced a SAW thermometer that people can purchase for just £5 and have produced lots of guidance on how to take your horse’s temperature safely and comfortably for the first time – just head to our website.”

If you’re a horse owner, yard manager, vet or equine professional and would like to join a list of ambassadors to help promote the SAW through social media, please sign up here or email campaigns@redwings.co.uk

To find out more about Strangles Awareness Week, the Temperature Check Challenge and other ways to get involved, please follow the SAW Facebook page or go to www.redwings.org.uk/strangles/strangles-awareness-week

Thanks to your support, Redwings is the coordinating organisation for Strangles Awareness Week. Huge thanks to all our collaborators who you can see below: