Wednesday, 9 July 2008


Unfortunately my progress with taking Dee out to the Wenallt horse trail on her own is on hold for a while. There is a suspected outbreak of strangles on the yard so no horses are allowed to leave for three weeks. The horse that may have the disease - as yet unconfirmed - has been isolated and all the horses have had blood tests. Dee and Red are both healthy, but there is some concern that Red may be a carrier as he is in the stall next to the infected horse and our horses are the most recent new arrivals on the yard. I do hope he is not. I wonder how people may react if it is discovered that we have inadvertently brought this unpleasant illness onto the yard.

I have been doing a little research into strangles and have discovered the following information (extracts from the strangles web site):

Strangles is a highly contagious, seriously debilitating disease in horses caused by the bacterium, Streptococcus equi. Clinical signs include fever, nasal discharge, cough, depression, anorexia and enlarged glands on the head and neck, which can become abscesses. The swollen glands can restrict the airway and make breathing laboured, hence the name strangles. Infection is usually restricted to the head and neck, however in up to 10% of cases it can develop in other body organs and cause abscesses. This is usually fatal and is known as ‘bastard’ strangles. Another complication is purpura haemorraghica (damage to the blood vessels of the limbs, eye lids and gums), which can be so extreme that it can cause circulatory failure and death.

Streptococcus equi is transmitted by horse-to-horse contact or via humans, tack, feed and equipment. Transmission frequently occurs through shared water sources where the bacterium lives for longer periods of time. The incubation period is approximately a fortnight. However, new outbreaks can occur up to three weeks or more after the initial outbreak as infected horses can shed the bacterium for long periods. In addition, approximately 10% of recovered horses, known as ‘carriers’ may harbour strangles with no outward clinical signs, increasing the likelihood of recurrent outbreaks in unvaccinated horses. It is imperative, therefore, to minimise contact with horses of unknown origin.

The implication of this information is that if Red is a carrier he must have had the disease at some point and recovered. I feel this is unlikely, but as I have only owned him since last October I cannot know for certain. If his blood test comes back positive, I shall contact his previous owners and see if they can offer any information about this.

Sally, our yard manager, is coping with the situation in her usual efficient manner - addressing the emotional responses of some of the horse owners, dealing with the practical necessities such as foot washes, and organising the quarantine protocols. The ill horse is in the farthest field on his own and strict procedures are in place with separate clothing being worn when caring for him and such like. As it is a gelding that is showing a possible infection, the mares and geldings are being separated even more completely than usual, until the blood tests have returned and the situation is clearer.

So Dee is on turn out in her field round the clock for the next few days. It has poured with rain heavily throughout most of today, but she was perfectly content when I visited her this afternoon. I am glad I rugged her last night in view of the heaviness of the rain. She is happier about being approached in the field these days. On Sunday she let us adjust her rug as one of the clips had come undone, even though she had only just been turned out. Previously she would have run away from us in case we were going to try and catch her. Today Dee made no sign of wanting to move away from me. She allowed me to examine her neck and under her head, and then enjoyed the carrots and apple I'd brought her. She even accepted a cuddle.

I shall be going to see her every day as usual and checking she remains free of symptoms. I'll also be checking Red of course who is being kept in. Sally and her staff are also checking all the horses at least once a day. The blood tests for Red should return tomorrow, so at least we will then know whether he is the carrier.

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