We can stamp out strangles, say equine sector leaders

Eradicating the UK’s most prevalent infectious equine disease could become a reality if more people were inspired to take action, was the message of an industry symposium which brought together leaders from across the equine community to discuss the better prevention and management of strangles.

The symposium, entitled ‘Together We Can Stamp Out Strangles’, took place at The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh on Friday 29th March.

Sponsored by Redwings and The British Horse Society (BHS), with collaboration from The University of Edinburgh, the Animal Health Trust (AHT), World Horse Welfare and Scotland’s Rural College (Premium Assured Strangles Scheme), the event was attended by industry leaders and respected professionals, including veterinarians, farriers, yard managers, equestrian governing bodies and welfare charities.

The event is one of many activities planned this year to coincide with our Stamp Out Strangles campaign to help yard managers and owners proactively protect their horses from infectious disease. 

The day provided the chance for attendees to share their latest research bringing together knowledge on all the advancements that could make eradication of the disease a possibility, including updates from the AHT’s promising vaccine developments, the strangles surveillance scheme and the value of the Premium Assured Strangles Scheme for certification of yards.

A panel, chaired by Chief Veterinary Officer for Scotland, Sheila Voas, led to a lively debate on what more the sector could do to work together to influence good biosecurity. Key questions posed included the larger role vets could play in encouraging better practices amongst clients, whether strangles should be made ‘Reportable’, and how to ensure the heightened awareness of infectious disease following the recent national equine flu outbreak does not diminish.

Afternoon workshops  gave the opportunity for participants to elaborate on the barriers they had faced engaging with horse owners to proactively control the disease, as well as managing outbreaks of strangles, and put together action plans on how good ideas could be progressed to achieve success.

Andie Vilela, Redwings’ Education and Campaigns Manager, said: “There has never been more information, advice and help available for horse owners to effectively prevent and tackle strangles, and yet it remains the UK’s most prevalent infectious disease with over 600 outbreaks every year.

“There is no reason why stamping out strangles in this country cannot become a reality with a commitment to good practices and actions, such as identifying and treating strangles carriers. This symposium provided the chance for representatives from the across the equine sector not only to evaluate their own practices, but figure out how we can work together to inspire and support others to do more.”

Helene Mauchlen, National Manager at The British Horse Society Scotland, added: “The BHS and AHT first developed STEPS (the Strategy to Eradicate and Prevent Strangles) in 2007. It’s still a definitive text on what to do in an outbreak, yet some yards continue not to use quarantine procedures when introducing new equines. By coming together to speak with one voice, this symposium is a positive step towards making good biosecurity a top priority for yards and horse owners.”

Symposium host, Professor Scott Pirie, Senior Lecturer at The University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, concluded: “It was fantastic to see such extensive input from, and collaborative cross-talk between, the various stakeholders within the equine industry with the common aim of stamping out strangles.

“The brain storming session in the afternoon took the meeting beyond one of basic knowledge exchange; rather it highlighted the fact that optimising infection control and biosecurity within the equine sector is a complex, yet achievable challenge. A highly productive day!”

A full report of the discussions and outcomes from the symposium will be published in due course.