Rapid response helped to stem Strangles scare
WHEN a highly contagious bacterial disease was discovered in one of the horses at their livery Richmond Equestrian Centre, near Tunstall, in Richmondshire, last summer, owners Abigail and Andrew Turnbull, followed expert advice and shut their business down immediately to minimise the risk to others.
And last month, seven months on from being given the all-clear, they gave a presentation at the 28th National Equine Forum (NEF), in front of industry experts and its president, Anne, Princess Royal, held in London.
Mrs Turnbull, said: “It was a great event and it was amazing to meet Princess Anne. She was great to talk to and very knowledgeable.
“The NEF was an amazing event and we are thinking of going every year now.”
Mr and Mrs Turnbull purchased Richmond Equestrian Centre in 2018.
Some of the buildings were quite run down so after a programme of renovation, they had just started to build up the business when the vet rang with the diagnosis in July 2019.
Mrs Turnbull said: “Never in a million years did I think the horse would test positive for Strangles, but when it did, we reacted immediately.
“We contacted all our livery clients as we wanted to be sure we weren’t spreading it.
“It is highly contagious and can be spread person to person. It can live in water for up to eight weeks, so we had to isolate.”
The couple’s decision to shut down their business only three weeks before they were due to host a British Equestrian Federation event with more than 800 entrants, was not one they took lightly.
Mrs Turnbull said: “In the horse world there are a lot of people who cover it up, but that is just not the way we work.
“It is a highly contagious disease and we knew we were letting people down by cancelling the event – but what person would put a horse in a livery that knowingly had the disease?
“We knew a little bit about Strangles. Everyone around us said you don’t want it. But it’s not a notifiable disease.”
Strangles is a highly contagious upper respiratory tract infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi.
It affects horses, donkeys and ponies of all ages, breed and sex. The bacteria often infect the lymph nodes around the jaw, causing them to become swollen.
Horses can die from the disease and can still be carriers of it after recovering from it, if they do not have a guttural pouch procedure.
Mrs Turnbull said: “We were shut for eight weeks and in the end five horses were infected. We listened to the experts and though it was expensive we made sure all the horses were clear.
“Guttoral pouch procedure is expensive if you are not insured, but horses are expensive. I have been educated in it and letting other people know.”
The couple said they received negative backlash when they posted the news of the outbreak online, but they refused to stay quiet.
She added: “I’m still getting a lot of backlash from people now, who said we should have stayed quiet about it. But we couldn’t in all consciousness do that.
“A very, very small amount of people did tell us we should have left the arena business open. But we felt we had a duty of care.
“Horses with Strangles can be put right if we all start to use common sense and not ignore the problem.
“It's like the coronavirus situation at the moment. If people listen to the experts, stay at home, isolate, the lockdown will be shorter and we can get rid of it.
“We did think this year was going to be great, but because of coronavirus we have had to cancel more events,” Mrs Turnbull added.
However, while on lockdown she has been designing new jumps for the British Equestrian courses and has dedicated one to the NHS. Although the jump is not complete yet, Mrs Turnbull said her drawing has already gained a lot of attention online after posting it to show friends.
Mrs Turnbull said: “We are so petrified of Strangles ever happening again, but if it did, I would do exactly what I have done.”