We are now 3 months into our battle against strangles at the rescue … with only two weeks left to the end of the March which is when our quarantine/lock-down was to end we are sorry to say that yesterday (24th of March) we saw the signs of another youngster, Dolly, developing the strangles symptoms 🙁
The quarantine clock has now been reset and at this stage it is very hard to have any positive attitude towards reaching the end of this horrible, nasty, cruel, (we would use stronger adjectives but then the post would not be suitable for younger readers!) disease. Although we had not let our guard down we were hopeful we were nearing the end.
Despite at least one from each of the different groups getting strangles we still have a total of 17 who have not shown any signs of the disease and there is no definitive answer as to why this is the case. The fact that so many have not gotten it to date also means we could in theory be months away from having a full ‘all clear’. Even when we do get to that stage we have to get each one declared fully fit for rehoming before it can leave the rescue.
To date we are sorry to say that we have lost two of the herd as a result of strangles, Frankie a 10h mare who developed ‘bastard strangles’ which affected her neurologically and Tiny Tim her 3yr old son. Of those that have had the disease we continue to be concerned about the lack of weight gain in three of them (Jean approx 10yr old donkey, Katie a 3yr old 12h2 pony and Frankie a 13’2 gelding) and much to our bemusement Patsy, 10h 3yr old pony, who had recovered from having had very bad abscesses in the 2nd week of January, developed a large new abscess a few weeks ago.
We know we are not the first, nor unfortunately will be the last, rescue to have to close our gates due to strangles. From doing lots of searches on the internet for medical and alternative remedies we will soon be able to right a book about the disease. Redwings rescue in the UK carried out a survey in 2016 on strangles in conjunction with the University of Liverpool and the Animal Health Trust due to them having had to isolate some of their facilities due to a strangles outbreak in 2015. The results of the survey were released earlier this month. Redwings are endeavoring to get horse lovers, equestrian yards, etc to #SpeakOutOnStrangles in the hope of reducing the stigma, secrecy and silence surrounding the disease. As you will see if you read their survey they go to huge extents to keep their herd in the clear from strangles, the measures they take are something we will be discussing with our vets in the coming weeks to see if it is feasible for us to do likewise or what plan they would suggest for us. On the 14th of March the Mare & Foal Sanctuary in the UK announced an outbreak at two of their facilities.
In reports made to the Animal Health Trust the UK state that strangles remains endemic in the UK with around 600 annual reports of the disease, they are doing a lot of research into the cause, treatment and prevention of the disease.
In relation to outbreaks in Ireland there is a notice dated February 24th on the Dressage Ireland website that they were informed of a strangles outbreak but it does not say what area the outbreak was in, however, there was a notice put on Boswell Equestrian’s website, who are based in Wicklow, to alert people to there being a strangles outbreak in their area so it is possibly the Wicklow area that Dressage Ireland were referring to. In fact the Foxborough Riding Club responsibly cancelled the end of their dressage league due to the concerns of equestrian yards and participants in the area as a result of the outbreak in Wicklow.
No doubt we have bored you enough with our ramblings about strangles at this stage but it is a disease that brings with it so much fear, heartache and stress, not to mention additional financial burdens, that it warrants another post. At this stage all we can do is keep doing all we can for the equines & donkeys in our care one day at a time, we do not know what the future will hold for them or us.
Thanks for your support and patience with us during these testing, tiring months