Strangles Awareness Week returns for 2021

A national week of action encouraging people to speak out and challenge the stigma of the UK’s most prevalent equine disease is returning this year.

Strangles Awareness Week returns for 2021

Strangles Awareness Week 2021, organised by leading equine welfare organisations, vets, researchers and higher education institutions in this field, will take place from 3rd to 9th May with the aim to provide horse owners, yard managers, vets and equine professionals with a platform to share their own stories and promote support for those affected by Strangles.

An average of 600 cases of Strangles – a highly contagious respiratory disease – occur across the UK every year. Strangles can be distressing for a horse, with possible symptoms ranging from laboured breathing, difficulty eating and depression, to a high fever, thick nasal discharge and painful abscesses, and in severe cases can even pose a risk to the horse’s life.

An outbreak can also be financially and emotionally devastating for owners and equestrian businesses with horses often remaining infectious for several weeks, resulting in costly and lengthy quarantine procedures with the potential for temporary closure of livery yards and the cancellation of events.

However, while Strangles can happen to any horse, sadly the stigma around the disease can prevent those affected from being open about an outbreak, with 75% of all yard managers responding to an online survey identifying fear as one of the main barriers to talking about Strangles publicly.

Strangles Awareness Week, returning for its second year, is a unique collaborative effort between the British Horse Society, Intervacc, Keeping Britain’s Horses Healthy, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, Scotland’s Rural College’s Premium Assured Strangles Scheme (PASS), Surveillance of Equine Strangles (SES), The (Dick) Royal School of Veterinary Studies and World Horse Welfare, who have brought together their decades’ worth of experience of either caring for horses with Strangles, supporting those coping with outbreaks or research into the disease.

Last year’s Strangles Awareness Week reached more than half a million people through social media, with well-known equestrians such as Joe Stockdale sharing the Week’s posts and messages – and it’s hoped more will get involved this year.

Dave Rendle, British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Junior Vice President and Chair of the BEVA Health and Medicines Committee, said:

“Strangles should be easy to control. With a little more understanding of the disease, we could make massive strides to protect our horses and prevent the disease spreading. Every horse owner should spare an hour or two to tune into Strangles Awareness Week.”

As well as practical information and free resources to support those who may be tackling outbreaks, this year’s event also includes a series of podcasts with figures from across the equestrian community sharing their experiences of Strangles and encouraging others to take up constructive conversations about the disease’s prevention and management.

Andie McPherson, Redwings’ Campaign Manager, said:

“When people hear of a Strangles outbreak in their area, we want the first reaction to be one of support, not judgement. Strangles can happen to any horse yet sadly there is still so much stigma attached to it which stops people speaking out and allows the disease to continue to spread.

“Using the platform of Strangles Awareness Week, we hope as many people as possible will share our free practical information about Strangles and feel empowered to talk about their experiences, so we can then start to shift attitudes and hopefully see less horses, owners and businesses facing the misery of dealing with an outbreak. Even if you’re not a horse owner, sharing our resources during the Week can help spread the word and may provide valuable support for someone currently coping in silence.”

Further information about what to expect during this year’s Strangles Awareness Week will be made available soon. If you’re a horse owner, yard manager, vet or equine professional and would like to join a list of ambassadors to help promote the Week through social media, please email: campaigns@redwings.co.uk.

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