THE OWNERS of an equestrian centre are aiming to highlight the dangers of a common equine disease which is highly contagious and led to them being forced to cancel a major event after horses in one of their yards contracted it.

Andrew and Abigail Turnbull, who run Richmond Equestrian Centre, between Tunstall and Colburn, said strangles is a very common disease but not many people know how to deal with it properly.

Mrs Turnbull said: "It was mid-August when one of our clients said she noticed one of her horses wasn't himself. We took its temperature and it was sky-high, but it had no other symptoms. We called the vet the next day and a blood test revealed it was strangles – which is similar to tonsillitis in humans and so-called because the horse can find it difficult to breathe.

"We had already isolated the horse in question and after the diagnosis we isolated some others which had been in contact with it.

"We had heard of strangles, but what I knew was the more extreme versions which involve the horses getting large abscesses on their necks. However, if left untreated it can develop to this level, and the infection can spread to other parts of the body and can be fatal."

Richmond Equestrian Centre, which is now a British Horse Society approved livery yard and facility centre, was due to host the British Eventing Horse Trials on August 31, but had to cancel to prevent more than 800 horses being exposed to the infection.

Mrs Turnbull said: "It was devastating to cancel but we had no choice. Strangles is extremely serious and so contagious. It can live on wood, leather, grass and in water for weeks, and an infected horse that has drank from a trough will contaminate that water for another horse to pick up the disease.

"But with simple precautions, such as not letting your horse have muzzle to muzzle contact with another, not sharing equipment, water troughs and feed buckets, and not grazing on unknown grass, you can prevent infection spreading."

Mrs Turnbull is working with Redwings Horse Sanctuary, a charity which is campaigning to stamp out the disease.

She said: "We are clear now, we managed to deal with the outbreak in seven weeks and only five of the 27 horses in livery here were affected and have recovered.

"We want to increase education and get people talking more about it."

Mr and Mrs Turnbull are hosting their next British Eventing Trials in May next year.

Visit to help stamp out strangles.