Strangles can be eradicated – with the Thoroughbred industry leading the way

The Strangles Workshop recently held at the fabulous Animal Health Trust (AHT) Visitor Centre provided a fascinating insight into the complex and ground breaking disease surveillance and research underway into this disease. Strangles is endemic across most of the world, with evidence that more than 600 outbreaks are identified annually in the UK alone, but thankfully very few of these occur in British racehorses.

New research at the AHT, which was presented at the meeting, tracked the international spread of Streptococcus equi, the cause of strangles, through 22 countries from around the World. “Our results showed that European countries generously share their populations of Streptococcus equi, but we also saw exchange of strains in the UK with the USA, South America, Australia and the United Arab Emirates” explained Dr Andrew Waller, Head of Bacteriology at the AHT. “We believe that outwardly healthy persistently infected ‘carrier’ horses could be to blame for the international transport of strangles.” Recognising the risks of introducing strangles via the international transport of horses, the authorities in Dubai now insist on the mandatory testing of blood samples from horses for exposure to strangles pre-export. Dr. Waller said “Early findings indicate that this intervention has helped to identify carriers before they had the opportunity to introduce strangles to Dubai, preventing new outbreaks and breaking the cycle of disease.”

Although strangles is complex, the meeting consistently delivered this strong message “Strangles can be prevented.” Dr Richard Newton, Director of Epidemiology and Surveillance at the AHT described methods to prevent strangles from getting into a yard and to eradicate it should the worst happen. Dr Newton explained; “Although strangles is uncommon among racehorses in training, it is a disease, along with equine influenza and neurological equine herpes virus, which requires trainers to immediately notify the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) so that effective steps can be taken to prevent its spread through the racing network. The rarity of strangles in racing is undoubtedly linked to the zero-tolerance that the industry has to it, such that trainers, their vets and the BHA all work closely together to control and eradicate the disease when it occurs.” Dr Newton continued, “It is important that racing remains vigilant and in particular becomes open to adopting wider preventive strategies such as quarantining and screening batches of horses entering training for the first time and those returning from events, such as international meetings, where there may be a heightened risk of introducing a range of infectious diseases including strangles.”

 

For further information, please contact: Rebecca Calver, AHT press office, 01638 751000 ext. 1572

 

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) is the UK’s leading veterinary and scientific research charity, dedicated to the health and wellbeing of dogs, cats and horses.  It aims to improve the health and welfare of horses, dogs and cats through research, but also provides specialist referral services and continuous education to vets. Throughout 2017, the AHT is celebrating its 75th Anniversary – that’s 75 years of leading science and care for animals. Visit the website www.aht.org.uk

 

New form of examination to check suitability to race

The way in which the BHA checks that certain horses are fit to race is set to change and this will replace the “poor movers list”. The new method is called a “suitability to race examination”. It has been used informally over the last three months to assess the practicalities and gain responses from trainers. As a result of positive feedback these examinations will be rolled out on a permanent basis across all affected horses and therefore remove the poor movers list and protocol.

The reason for instigating this STR examination is to allow trainers and owners, their stable vets, and BHA vets to be confident that horses that arrive at the races with a history of idiosyncratic gaits will be able to race. It removes the problem of withdrawing horses on raceday once they have arrived at that racecourse because they are deemed at trot up to be lame. It also allows the BHA Veterinary Officers (VO) to have confidence that these horses have gaits that do not represent on-going pathology changes which could result in a catastrophic injury and hence welfare issues.

How it works:

  • Horses are identified by BHA VOs as having consistent abnormal gaits or have a history of being examined and possibly withdrawn on raceday a number of times because of their gait movements.
  • The trainer is notified by letter that their horse is to be subject to a STR examination because of one of those criteria.
  • The examination is to occur at the trainer’s stables and not on race day when the horse may be entered to race.
  • The trainer has the option to have his/her stable veterinary surgeon present when the examination takes place. There will also be a full review of the horse’s history and its medication records.
  • The examination consists of two stages: an examination, including a trot up which will be video recorded, before the horse undertakes a gallop and a further examination of the horse after it has completed a gallop.
  • Any horse presented for a STR examination may be drug tested in accordance with the Rules of Racing.
  • If the horse is passed as suitable to race, it may be entered and race as normal. It will be subject to on-going random VO checks on its gait on race days as it continues to race. If there is a deterioration in its action or a change in gait in future, it may be subject to a repeated STR examination, otherwise it continues to race as a normal racehorse.
  • If the horse is deemed unsuitable to race at any point by the VO, it may not be declared for a race until it has completed a satisfactory STR examination.
  • If there is a disagreement on the outcome of this initial examination a Senior Raceday Veterinarian will accompany the VO on the subsequent examination.

This is a significant welfare initiative and, although it will never completely stop race day catastrophic injuries, it should give both the industry and the general public confidence that welfare is the prime focus of the racing industry.

Promoting ‘The Horse Comes First’ at Epsom Open Day and Newmarket Open Weekend

The NTF is a supporter of The Horse Comes First, an industry-wide initiative which many trainers will be familiar with. The Horse Comes First promotes and raises awareness of the high standards of equine welfare in the sport. The initiative aims to improve understanding of the care given to our horses throughout and after their careers in racing.

The Epsom Trainers’ Open Day on Monday 28th August and Newmarket Open Weekend on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September are great opportunities for trainers to engage with The Horse Comes First and share the positive messaging about the high levels of welfare with visitors to yards. Here’s how trainers can get involved.

HCF logo

British Racing has a track record to be proud of: British Racing is among the world’s best regulated animal activities. The sport employs over 6,000 people to provide care and attention for the 14,000 horses in training, providing them with a level of care and a quality of life that is virtually unsurpassed by any other domesticated animal.

British Racing has a duty of care to its horses: Since the year 2000, British Racing has invested £32 million in veterinary research and education.

British Racing is open and transparent: Within the last 20 years, the equine fatality rate in British Racing has fallen by one-third, from 0.3% to 0.2% of runners.

Further information and messaging from The Horse Comes First can be found on its website (http://www.thehorsecomesfirst.com/key-facts) and we welcome you to share the messaging as you show visitors around your yards.

 

 

RSPCA asks racing community for winning homes for companion ponies

The RSPCA is asking racing trainers for help rehoming small hack and companion ponies this summer.

For several years now the RSPCA and other horse charities has been picking up the pieces of the equine crisis, with inspectors being called out to sick, injured, neglected or cruelly treated horses every single day.

Despite their best efforts the RSPCA has more than 800 horses, donkeys and ponies in care and is asking for the racing community for help to give them winning homes.

Amy Quirk, a former jockey, and the RSPCA’s director of field operations, said: “We are asking the racing community for help rehoming our ponies as we know these animals will get fantastic care and also lead purposeful lives as hacks or field and travel companions for your thoroughbreds.

“You may not have considered rehoming a rescue horse until now, but we have hundreds of really smart little ponies (like little Chewie, pictured) who are just waiting for a chance in a new home after being rescued from serious neglect and cruelty.”

To find out more, please email equinerehoming@rspca.org.uk the RSPCA website and see the companion horses, ponies and donkeys currently available for rehoming or foster (www.rspca.org.uk/homesforhorses)

 

New stand-down period: BISPHOSPHONATE

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) would like to advise the Responsible Person (i.e. trainers, owners, breeders) and their veterinary surgeons of a new Rule requiring a mandatory 30 day Stand-Down period from racing following the administration of any bisphosphonate licensed for equine use. This Rule will be effective from 10 August 2017.

“11B The horse must not have been administered

11.B.1any bisphosphonate under the age of three years and six months as determined by its recorded date of birth, or

11.B.2 any bisphosphonate on the day of the race or on any of the 30 days before the day of the race in which the horse is declared to run”.

The BHA expectations with regard to the use of bisphosphonates in horses racing or intending to race in Great Britain in order to comply with the Rules of Racing

·       The product used should be licensed for use in horses the UK;

·       The horse must be over three years and six months of age at the time of administration as determined by its recorded date of birth;

·       There must be a diagnosis determined by a veterinary surgeon that supports the use of a bisphosphonate as an appropriate treatment; and

·       The bisphosphonate must be administered by a veterinary surgeon.

Due to their complex nature and action, the excretion of bisphosphonates may be unpredictable, leading to considerable variation in excretion times.  This variability may be increased when bisphosphonates are administered to horses with on-going musculoskeletal disease process, including the possibility that bisphosphonates may be released from bone at a period remote from initial administration. As such, it cannot be guaranteed that future musculoskeletal disease processes will not result in an Adverse Analytical Finding.

As a guide, the BHA are aware of data from studies in normal horses which indicate that if a single dose of Tildren® (CEVA) at 1 mg/kg were administered intravenously, the Detection Time would be unlikely to exceed the Stand-Down period. A discussion between the Responsible Person and their veterinary surgeon is essential when considering administration of any medication which is a Prohibited Substance on raceday.

 

03 July 2017

Notice of outbreak of EHV-1 in Yorkshire

As you may be aware, there has been a reported outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus-1 in a Trainer’s property in Hambleton, Yorkshire. The affected yard has been placed into isolation, with increased biosecurity measures in place. Under Rule (C)30 of the BHA Rules of Racing, no horse will be permitted to move off this yard until such time that the BHA is satisfied that there is no longer a risk of the spread of infectious disease.

Two further yards which have shared facilities and/or transport with the affected yard have also been placed into isolation for a minimum of 14 days, with increased biosecurity measures in place.

On each yard, the BHA will liaise with the trainers, their veterinary surgeons and the Animal Health Trust about the testing protocols that will take place before any restrictions are lifted. With these quarantine, increased biosecurity measures and testing protocols in place, the BHA is currently satisfied that the risk of the spread of infectious disease has not increased above the normal level.

As a reminder, trainers should be constantly vigilant for signs of infectious disease in racehorses. It is advisable to carry out twice daily temperature checks on all horses. Any horse showing signs of infectious disease or a raised temperature should be isolated where possible and examined by a veterinary surgeon.

We would also remind trainers of their responsibility to report communicable diseases under the BHA Rules of Racing, Rule (C)30 – Duty to report communicable diseases (see excerpt below).

Further information on Equine Herpes Virus and appropriate biosecurity measures can be found on the EquiBioSafe App, in the National Trainers Federation Code of Practice for Infectious Diseases of Racehorses in Training and in the Horserace Betting Levy Board Codes of Practice.

rules report communicable disease

Equine welfare messages from The Horse Comes First

One of the original objectives of the Horse Comes First campaign was to make advocates of our participants. Trainers who are questioned about equine welfare in the coming weeks might find it useful to be able to speak with confidence about some of British racing’s messages on this subject.

British racing has a track record to be proud of when it comes to equine welfare.
The industry is united in its commitment to the health and welfare of its equine stars and together we run The Horse Comes First campaign to raise awareness of the high welfare standards that exist within our sport.

Below you will find links to documents which you may find useful over the coming weeks –

  • The first document outlines our key welfare messages, which will be helpful should you have an opportunity to promote the sport’s welfare standards and track record.
  • The second document contains a series of infographics which can be posted or shared on social media to spread the word about the high standards of care within British racing.