Equine health



It’s not productive to be alarmist about strangles and other infections that can affect horses, but neither is it advisable to bury one’s head in the sand. We believe in being informed. It is incumbent upon all of us to be aware of the dangers and to take precautions to prevent outbreaks from happening.

Strangles is always present in equine populations; luckily the outbreaks are few. Since humans first relied on horses for work and recreation, strangles has been a source of frustration. Caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi (Strep. equi), it is one of the most common equine respiratory infections in the world. The image to the left shows the parts of the respiratory tract affected most. It can affect horses of all ages and types.

The signs of equine strangles include fever, nasal discharge and depression, and abcesses can also develop around the head and neck. The condition is contagious but not infectious, i.e. the bacteria are passed on by touch (including on fence posts, buckets, tack and other inanimate objects that the horse might touch). Horses snorting near each other is less likely to carry the bacteria from one to another.. touching is the problem.

Horses that have apparently recovered continue to be carriers of bacteria. They can harbour Strep. equi with no outward clinical signs. Consequently, new or recurrent outbreaks are likely unless costly diagnostic procedures and aggressive quarantine measures are used. In our Hodgemoor area, this means that our vigilance against Strangles is ongoing: all the time, not just in the next few weeks and not just in the one yard

Therefore, we advise as follows:

  1. Do not touch any horse other than your own.
  2. 2. Do not share tack or equipment with horses of unknown health status
  3. Do not admit any horse to your yard unless vetted and certified clear, or unless you can be certain that it will not touch another horse or human..
  4. When riding with others, and around the yard, do not let horses touch noses (or other parts of the body)
  5. Try not to visit other yards yourself, and certainly don’t touch their horses.
  6. Ensure that suppliers including farriers and vets touch horses as little as possible and wash frequently with anti-bacterial hand-wash. Do you provide such hand wash in your own facilities? Do it today!
  7. Restrict movement of people onto the premises who have arrived from an affected yard
  8. Minimise the risk of horses on the yard coming into physical contact with horses on neighbouring yards whose health status is not known.

Strangles is not something that should cast a bad light on the diligence of any yard in question… it can happen to anyone. But this is an ongoing problem with horses in a high density area like ours and you should continue to follow these recommendations all the time. Feel free to cut and paste this information into a poster for your yard’s notice board.


Sycamore deaths

Warning from 31 October 2014.

Scores of British horses are dying from a rare illness linked to sycamore trees, vets are warning. Chiltern Equine reports 4 horses have died this week round here and others are reported nearby. These deaths from atypical myopathy had not been linked definitively to sycamore trees until this autumn. Eating sycamore seeds and leaves can kill a horse within hours. 75% to 80% of horses do not survive. Sycamore seeds are easy to spot because the seed has two leaves in a V which make it float in the wind like a helicopter.

You should act immediately.

1) Read the articles in Horse & Hound and ignore the advice on the BHS and Government websites which are out of date.

2) Print the images of the tree, leaves and seed in the same document. Walk round your paddock today, looking for the tree. Fence off any area where the seeds and leaves can fall. Beware: wind can carry them up to 200 metres, especially in the northeast direction because of the prevailing winds here.

3) If your horse or pony shows symptoms of sycamore poisoning, get him/her to the vet in minutes…

  • shivering and sweating
  • dark urine
  • collapsing
  • fatigue and muscle stiffness
  • colic-like signs

4) Get on the phone now to warn any friend with a horse or pony of this very high risk to their life.