The Mare and Foal Sanctuary is currently working with Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, Redwings and Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society to bring under control an outbreak of strangles amongst a group of ponies on Dartmoor.
The multi-agency team has undertaken a massive operation to test and treat the herd at Bellever, near Postbridge. It is hoped this will eradicate the disease from this area. The ponies also had their hooves trimmed, teeth checked and any animals without microchips have received one.
Strangles is a potentially deadly respiratory disease that is highly contagious. It is caused by a bacterial infection that can lead to swollen lymph nodes, nasal discharge and a fever. It can cause the nodes in the neck to become very swollen and abscesses sometimes form that can then burst. This leads to breathing problems for the horse and is what gives the disease its lethal name.
Strangles is spread by bodily fluids such as mucus, nasal discharge or burst abscesses from an infected horse. Most horses survive strangles but in some cases it can be fatal or have long-lasting effects. Vulnerable equines such as foals are particularly at risk.
Dartmoor has a long history of strangles outbreaks. These outbreaks are incredibly difficult to control. The team believe that this is the first time a test and treat operation of this scale has been attempted. How effective it will be remains to be seen, but the team are very hopeful.
Syra Bowden, Director of Equine at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary, explains: “The Mare and Foal Sanctuary knows just how devasting strangles can be. We are extremely proud to be working with our colleagues at Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, Redwings and the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society to try and bring strangles under control in this area. Testing a herd in the wild like this is not something that is often attempted. We will be monitoring the situation closely to see how effective we have been. We are very optimistic that we can bring strangles under control and play our part in saving the lives of any affected ponies.”