Racing has been resumed.

However, horse owners are urged to continue to be vigilant for symptoms of equine flu – coughing, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, lethargy – and to call their vet if they think their horses are showing signs.

The latest advice on how we can keep our horses safe.

The advice below has been put together by BEVA in consultation with the Animal Health Trust. It reflects the current situation and may be subject to change.

Equine flu is always present in the UK.  We currently appear to be seeing flu in some horses who have been vaccinated as well as in unvaccinated horses and this means that we should all be taking some extra precautions “just in case”.

Why should I vaccinate?

• The more you do to reduce the risk of spreading any contagious disease between horses the better… but doing what you reasonably can is better than doing nothing.  

• Vaccinated horses are likely to be less severely affected by flu and are likely to get better more quickly than unvaccinated horses.

• Unvaccinated horses present a risk not just to themselves but to all the horses around them.

What should I do on the yard?

• Keep a look out for the signs of flu – coughing, snotty nose, loss of appetite, lethargy – and call your vet if you think any horses are showing signs.

• If your horses are at a higher risk (ie they haven’t been vaccinated or there is an outbreak of flu at a neighbouring yard) then you could also look out for raised temperatures (>38.5°c)

• Ask your vet to vaccinate your horse if it has not been vaccinated before or if its last booster vaccination was more than 6 months ago.  It is recommended that the vaccine used reflects the virus type currently being seen in the outbreak (Florida Clade 1)

• You should plan to give your horse a few quiet days after vaccination (immunity steadily increases over 7-10 days following vaccination)

• If your horse is at higher risk you should discuss with you vet whether more frequent boosters would be appropriate.

Should I stop visitors coming to our yard?

• Visitors such as vets, farriers, dental technicians, saddle fitters, physios etc should take special precautions as they could transmit disease between horses and between yards.

• Before they arrive, visitors should call to ask whether there are any sick horses on the yard.  If any horses are showing signs that might be flu or if the disease has been confirmed then you should postpone all but essential visits.

• Even if all your horses appear fine your visitors should clean their hands (ideally with an alcohol based antimicrobial gel type product), clean their tools (especially dental technicians) and check their clothing for obvious contamination (changing it if required).

• If your visitors’ vehicles have not been in contact with your horses then there is no requirement for the vehicle to be washed down.

• As good practice you should keep a record of all visitors to the yard.

Should I go to competitions/events/training?

• Do not take your horse anywhere if there are sick horses on your yard

• Check that the venue is happy to have you and that there are no sick horses reported by the venue.

• Check that the venue has a policy that visiting / kept horses are vaccinated.

• Whilst at the venue, keep your horse(s) out of contact with other horses and avoid sharing of buckets or any other equipment

• When you return you should thoroughly clean your lorry or trailer (ideally not next to your horses)

What about deliveries to our yard?

• Try to keep feed, forage or other delivery vehicles and drivers separate from the horses

What about sending equipment away?

• If you are sending tack or clippers for repair then you should clean them first and the repairer should routinely wipe them over with an antimicrobial product before returning them.  Rugs can be sent for washing as normal (with the worst of the muck cleared off first)

Is it usual to have equine flu in the UK?

Equine flu is ‘endemic’ in the UK which means it is always here. However there have been very few diagnosed cases in the last few years and they haven’t made the news. Flu is not a notifiable disease, so there isn’t a complete picture of how many cases there are each year, although the Animal Health Trust has a free surveillance scheme which tracks the number of outbreaks each year. Before January 2019 was over, there had already been as may cases in Britain as there were in the whole of 2018.

Is equine flu harmful to horses?

It can have serious health implications for unvaccinated horses, or horses which are vulnerable in another way, and they can become very ill. Horses whose boosters are up to date should only experience mild symptoms. However, affected horses are still infectious and able to spread the disease. Even in unvaccinated horses, flu does not usually cause life-threatening illness as has been evidenced by the outcomes of previous cases in the current outbreak. However, sadly one unvaccinated horse in this outbreak has been euthanised which is a reminder of the importance of vaccination and appropriate yard hygiene/biosecurity.

Which strain of equine flu is causing this outbreak?

It is known as Florida clade 1 and is a strain not seen in the UK since 2009, although British horses are vaccinated against it. 

Information on vaccine strains

How does this outbreak compare to that in Australia in 2007?

Australia does not have equine flu and horses are not vaccinated against it. As there is usually no flu in Australia, there is also no immunity in the general horse population from exposure to it, which is why the effects were so devastating when the outbreak took place in 2007. This is obviously a very different situation to the UK, where flu is endemic, and where horses are routinely vaccinated so most adult horses have some immunity. 

Why have vaccinated horses been affected?

As with human ‘flu disease can occur despite vaccination. The flu virus is always changing slightly so it is not uncommon for the flu vaccination not to be 100% effective however, as in this outbreak, the vaccines are reducing severity of clinical signs and shortening how long a horse is unwell for and  reinforcing the importance of vaccination.  

What can I do to protect my horse?

The steps to take are very simple. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date and if you have any concerns, call your vet for advice. Make sure that any new horses on your yard are kept in isolation from the existing horses to prevent any possible spread for a period of time (ideally isolation facilities for 3 weeks). Equine flu droplets can be spread up to 100 metres through the air and on tools, equipment and clothing so make sure that you do not accidentally transfer the virus in any of these ways.

What’s the treatment for infected horses? How long will it last?

Horses will need rest and may need medication as prescribed by your vet. Make sure infected horses are isolated to prevent spread, your vet will advise.

If your horse is vaccinated, it will be ill for less time, but will need to rest and may be off work for a few weeks in order to recover properly. If the horse is not vaccinated illness can last for considerably longer and be more severely affected.

Is there any risk to human health?

No, this virus cannot be passed on to humans.

Will shows and competitions be cancelled?

Equestrian organisations are carefully monitoring the situation and assessing all the risks. They are taking responsible and proportionate action. With the information that is currently available it is unlikely that events will be asked to cancel but it is possible this situation may change. Any cancellations will be on the advice of specialist vets, and it will be in the interests of minimising spread of the virus and risk to the health of the UK’s horses. Careful consideration is being made of all the available facts, alongside advice received from experts in equine influenza and epidemiology that have experience of managing previous outbreaks. BEF’s own advisors include Jenny Hall - Chair of BEF’s Equine Infectious Disease Emergency Response Committee; John McEwen - Director of Equine Sports Science and Medicine and Jane Nixon - BEF Board Director and Veterinary Consultant. 

What is the incubation period, before signs of equine flu appear?

This is usually 1-5 days before the horse shows signs. Taking a horse’s temperature is the best way of spotting changes early and being able to respond quickly. If the temperature is greater than 38.5C then seek immediate veterinary attention.

Published in Articles

The latest advice on how we can keep our horses safe.

Horse racing has been resumed. However, horse owners are urged to be vigilant for symptoms of equine flu – coughing, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, lethargy – and to call their vet if they think their horses are showing signs.

Full Article  HERE

Published in Trot On Blogs

A damning independent report has described bullying, elitism and self-interest at work within elements of the BEF, saying relationships between the governing organisation and its member bodies had been dysfunctional for years.

"I have a passionate interest in horses as a force for good. The vision I set out with at the BEF was to try and make that a reality for a much wider range of people and I'd still like to see that happen and I still think it's possible." Clare Salmon

The report was commissioned following a series of concerns raised in July last year by its outgoing chief executive Clare Salmon, whose position in the federation had become untenable because of the position adopted by some key stakeholders.

Her email of July 13th 2017 outlined a series of concerns:

"My own view for equestrianism, as you know, involved achieving a bigger and more diverse community for the sport, building standards of integrity, and communicating the belief that horses are a force for good. The benefits of this approach would be shared by all those involved in the sector. I still believe in that vision, but have found that the elitist views and personal aspirations of a small number of individuals have the potential to prevent any material progress.Corruption, self-interest and bullying behaviour are a reality in part of equestrianism. I cannot and do not want to be part of that. Public money deserves a better fate.”

The then BEF board commissioned the review to fully understand and investigate issues raised.

In summary, the independent review panel found that:

• There had been a breakdown in relationships between the leadership of the BEF and member bodies, which was not exclusive to the period under investigation

• Many of these relationship issues had arisen through lack of clarity about and acceptance of the role of the BEF

• In relation to the key themes raised by the CEO on her resignation, certain actions during the period relevant to the review may be viewed objectively as bullying, elitism and arising from self interest; but there was no evidence of corruption.

The panel behind it found the actions of the BEF founding members – British Dressage (BD), British Showjumping (BS), British Eventing (BE) the British Horse Society (BHS) – and the Pony Club on 12 July 2017 “can be objectively viewed as [their] bullying the BEF into a position that Ms Salmon’s role was rendered untenable”.

The BEF oversees 15 member bodies (MBs), including those responsible for Olympic sports showjumping, dressage and eventing.

‘Battle for the heart and soul’ of equestrianism.

"The report has vindicated the concerns I raised about bullying, about elitism and about a toxic culture within the equestrian world,"  said Clare Salmon

"The intimidation that I experienced was very distressing. I am a strong character, as the report observes, but certainly being treated in this way, I was set up to fail.

"I was systematically prevented from implementing the vision that I set out, to democratise horse sport in the UK.

"That was very, very distressing. I was trolled online at various points during this process and I can only say that without the support of my husband and my daughter, I'm not sure where that would have finished."

Referring to the accusations of elitism she said:

"At one of the board meetings that I attended with one of my colleagues, we said that we wanted to open up horse sport to a wider audience and we were told: 'But just anybody might turn up, think who might turn up, how terrible might that be' - people who were beyond the sort of tweedocracy of traditional horse sport."

On behalf of the British Equestrian Federation, its Interim Chair Ed Warner says:

“We are grateful for the work of the panel and accept, in full, the recommendations arising from its independent review, which identified difficulties in relationships within the BEF.

“It is now a priority for the BEF, which is under the leadership of both a new board of directors and executive management, to learn lessons from the past and ensure appropriate practices in future. We are committed to strong and transparent governance, which will be critical in ensuring the trust of all our stakeholders going forward."

The panel identified three key areas for recommendations:

• The identification of the role and responsibilities of the BEF

• The establishment of strong leadership within the BEF

• The maintenance of good governance

Read the report in full HERE



Published in Articles