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A national week of action encouraging people from across the equestrian community to speak out about their experiences of the infectious disease Strangles is returning this year.
Strangles Awareness Week 2021 will take place from 3rd to 9th May with the aim to provide horse owners, yard managers, vets and equine professionals with a platform to share their own stories and promote support for those affected by the disease.
This special week is a collaborative effort between Redwings Horse Sanctuary, the British Horse Society, Intervacc, Keeping Britain’s Horses Healthy, Scotland’s Rural College’s Premium Assured Strangles Scheme (PASS), Surveillance of Equine Strangles (SES), The (Dick) Royal School of Veterinary Studies and World Horse Welfare, who have brought together their decades’ worth of experience of either caring for horses with Strangles, supporting those coping with outbreaks or research into the disease.
An online survey aimed at yard managers, conducted by the collaborative last year, identified fear as one of the main barriers to talking about the disease with 75% of respondents believing that just speaking publicly may lead people to suspect an issue, ultimately affecting their business’ reputation, such is the strength of the stigma.
This sadly leads to many dealing with financially and emotionally devastating outbreaks in silence, allowing the highly contagious illness - the most prevalent equine disease in the UK - to spread further. It is hoped by encouraging more to speak out about their experiences, more people will have the confidence to seek help and advice.
Dave Rendle, BEVA Junior Vice President and Chair of the BEVA Health and Medicines Committee, said: “Strangles should be easy to control. With a little more understanding of the disease, we could make massive strides to protect our horses and prevent the disease spreading. Every horse owner should spare an hour or two to tune into Strangles Awareness Week.”
Last year’s Strangles Awareness Week reached more than half a million people through social media, with well-known equestrians such as Joe Stockdale sharing the Week’s posts and messages - and it’s hoped more will get involved this year.
As well as practical information and free resources to support those who may be tackling outbreaks, this year’s event also includes a series of podcasts with figures from across the equestrian community sharing their experiences of Strangles and encouraging others to take up constructive conversations about the disease’s prevention and management.
Andie McPherson, Redwings’ Campaigns Manager, said: “When people hear of a Strangles outbreak in their area, we want the first reaction to be one of support, not judgement. Strangles can happen to any horse yet sadly there is still so much stigma attached to it which stops people speaking out and allows the disease to continue to spread.
“Using the platform of Strangles Awareness Week, we hope as many people as possible will share our free practical information about Strangles and feel empowered to talk about their experiences, so we can then start to shift attitudes and hopefully see less horses, owners and businesses facing the misery of dealing with an outbreak.”
Further information about what to expect during this year’s Strangles Awareness Week will be made available soon.
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 Week through social media, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.