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Redwings Horse Sanctuary Wins Battle with Strangles Disease

23 September 2015

UK - Having battled the contagious respiratory disease strangles for the past eight months, Redwings Horse Sanctuary has now lifted its final quarantine zones from its largest farm in Norfolk.

Movement restrictions between and within Redwings sites have also been lifted, and all movements around the horse hospital at the charity’s Norfolk headquarters have returned to normal, reports the National Equine Welfare Council.

At the height of the outbreak a total of 24 horses tested positive for strangles, many more required testing and nine quarantine zones were in operation resulting in an expenditure of over £4,000 a week on feed, test results and equipment to contain the disease.

As a precautionary measure, the charity was also forced to cease rehoming operations and temporarily close its Ada Cole visitor centre in Essex due to suspected contact with a strangles case – an action that had a notable impact on visitor numbers and donations, on which the Sanctuary relies so heavily.

Redwings’ staff and veterinary team have worked tirelessly to restrict the spread of the disease and prevent a potentially devastating situation for a sanctuary that has 1,500 resident horses. However, the outbreak has proved a very difficult and challenging time for the charity – as a result of restricted movements within sites, paddocks could not be rotated and subsequently unable to recover from grazing, requiring a number of the hay stocks reserved for winter to be used prematurely.

The restriction of movements also applied to staff meaning maintenance work to repair fencing on certain sites was halted – costly improvements which are now desperately needed.

The Sanctuary has also invested in gallons of disinfectant; every time a quarantine zone was lifted miles of fencing and numerous water tanks, gates and field shelters required cleaning by hand. The total costs have yet to be calculated but it is clear its after-effects will be felt for some time to come.

“The strangles outbreak has been one of the biggest challenges we have faced in our 30-year history,” reflects Redwings Chief Executive Lynn Cutress.

“I’d like to thank our supporters (new and longstanding) for their support and understanding during this extraordinary time. Sincere thanks also go to everyone who has already donated to help us deal with our outbreak and ensure our horses got the best possible care.”

“I’d also like to thank our amazing staff who have worked so hard to contain the disease; their care for and dedication to the horses has been unceasing – wonderful work! Strangles has affected so many areas of our work, but our teams have stood steadfast and remained positive throughout. I am so proud of each and every one of them.”

Redwings is extremely experienced in managing and treating strangles cases as the infection can be prevalent in the neglected and abandoned horses that the charity rescues.

Indeed, the Sanctuary’s Reception Centre will continue to operate a quarantine zone – as it has always done – as each new arrival undergoes a period of quarantine before being introduced to a herd. However, this is the first time in 23 years Redwings has seen a case within its resident herds.

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