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Supporting Scarlett through Strangles

22nd December 2016

Scarlett, an eight-year-old Thoroughbred mare arrived at Bransby Horses on the evening of Thursday 24th November following seizure by the RSPCA; she was found abandoned close to a busy road and was ushered into a garden to keep her safe.

Scarlett was in a very poor state, with a body condition score of just two out of five. She had severe swelling under her neck, nasal discharge and an abscess which indicated that sadly, there was potential that she had a disease called Strangles. Scarlett was loaded onto a lorry, but no yards were willing to take her in because of the risk that Strangles carries to other equines (it is highly contagious). Bransby Horses were called and luckily we were able to assist.

By the time Scarlett arrived at Bransby Horses, she was exhausted and struggled to eat forage because of the extent to which her neck was swollen. Covered in lice, open cuts and sores around her back legs and hind quarters, it was evident that she was stressed and in a lot of pain. Live worms were also found in her droppings but luckily, veterinary assistance was not far away; Scarlett’s abscess’s were soon lanced to relieve the pressure around her neck. She subsequently tested positive for Strangles.

Scarlett is still spending her time at the Animal Reception Centre (ARC) at our Lincolnshire site, but is responding well to treatment now that she is receiving the care and attention that she deserves. Scarlett is a kind-natured and loving mare, who is settling in well at Bransby Horses and has formed a good relationship with the staff at the ARC.

Despite their best attempts, the RSPCA were unable to locate her most recent owner; Scarlett’s microchip had not been updated with their details. The microchip did enable us to look into her history though and  we discovered she has raced and competed in dressage and eventing. It is sad to see a once loved and cared for horse end up abandoned by a road in such poor health.

Quarantine is paramount with a contagious disease like Strangles as it can spread quickly through direct contact between equines or indirect contact through tack or equipment, shared drinking water or feed, clothing and hands. To prevent the Strangles spreading to other equines, Scarlett is in isolation and she has her own feed and water buckets that are disinfected after every use. In addition to this, overalls are used when staff enter the stable and foot dips and disinfectant sprays are used. All waste materials, for example bedding and dressings, are bagged, sealed and put into clinical waste.

Scarlett is on a very slow road to recovery; a combination of endoscope and serology (blood) tests will be used to determine when she is free from the Strangles infection. When she is able to leave the ARC we hope she will be able to find a Friend for Life foster home in the future.

For information or advice about Strangles, please contact our Welfare Team on 01427 787369 or email