A livery yard at West Linton, in the Scottish Borders, is the first in the UK to become accredited under a new scheme to protect horses and premises from a debilitating and highly contagious disease.
The Premium Assured Strangles Scheme (PASS) was launched earlier this year by SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, a Division of Scotland’s Rural College, with the support of the British Horse Society.
Under the PASS scheme Kerry and Andrew Abernethy, the owners of Karecole Livery have collaborated with horse owners and their vets in blood testing all forty horses kept in their stables. Membership of the scheme had the support of more than thirty clients who own horses kept at the yard.
“My experience of becoming accredited was very straightforward due to the great cooperation and full support I received from the clients,” said Kerry. “When I decided to take this action it was important for everybody to be on board”.
Strangles is caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus equi. It affects the lymph glands around the throat and can be caught from direct horse-to-horse contact, contaminated water or equipment, and from human hands or clothing. Horses with weakened immune systems, or in closer contact with others, as they are in riding schools, livery yards, racing stables or stud farms, can be particularly susceptible. Infection can spread quickly, however it can be treated and the recovery rate is good, particularly if it is caught early.
“Our clients were all keen to know where they stood with regards to Strangles eradication and any potential problems,” said Kerry. “The results produced facts which could then be dealt with, if required, with no finger pointing or rumours. They are happy there is now a policy in place to monitor any new horses coming on to the yard which helps reduce the risk of infection and builds trust.”
Alison Braddock, who helps to promote the PASS scheme for SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, commented:
“We launched PASS this summer in Scotland, at the Royal Highland Show. In mid September we introduced it to England and Wales at the British Equine Veterinary Association Congress. This announcement, of the first yard to complete the certification process, will encourage many others to apply and take a more proactive approach to a disease many in the horse world fear.”
Those yards and premises applying to join the scheme do so after consultation with their horse owner clients and vets. Members are required to blood test their horses annually. If no trace of Strangles is found, the yard achieves a PASS accreditation. If horses are found to be carrying Strangles, the affected horse(s) must be isolated and treated to eliminate infection. Only then can the yard be accredited. Veterinary surgeons are involved at every stage.
All scheme members must then follow practical biosecurity guidelines to reduce further risk, including that posed by new arrivals or taking horses to shows, events or competitions. These are in accordance with the British Horse Society’s STEPS guidelines (Strategy to Eradicate and Prevent Strangles). It is believed that members of the PASS scheme will have an enhanced status in their community and amongst potential clients. As more businesses join there will be less risk of the disease becoming established in the local areas which will be very reassuring for horse owners and livery yard proprietors.
Kerry pays tribute to her vet Matt Hanks, of Central Equine Vets near Edinburgh:
“His smooth handling of the whole procedure, from explaining the action to be taken right through to the scoping of horses made it a very straightforward exercise. And of course all the results came back negative!”
For further information on the scheme please contact Alison Braddock, Marketing and Business Development Manager, Alison.Braddock@sac.co.uk / 07827 283371, or SAC Veterinary Services, Edinburgh VCEdinburgh@sac.co.uk / 0131 535 3130.