The Horse Trust Launches New Influenza Vaccination Policy

The Horse Trust, one of England's largest equine retirement and rescue charities, has updated its equine influenza vaccination policy to require all residents be inoculated for the disease.

The charity runs a sanctuary for rescued, elderly, and retired working horses, ponies, and donkeys in Speen, Buckinghamshire. Until now, the charity minimized the risk of equine influenza by ensuring that all new admissions were quarantined upon arrival to monitor them for signs of influenza before they were turned out with the other horses, and by vaccinating any horses that were transported to shows or events.

However, after conducting a review into its current policy, the staff and trustees felt there was potentially an increased risk to the residents at the sanctuary due to an increase in the number of outside events attended by resident horses, the admission of rescue cases, and the growing number of visitors to the sanctuary.

In the past, resident horses spent their lives at The Horse Trust without being moved or transported. The Horse Trust's residents are now becoming more mobile, attending events such as the Bucks County Show, the Buckinghamshire Armed Forces Day, and The London International Horse Show at Olympia.

The charity also takes in rescue cases and often little is known about their background. There is a risk that they may have been exposed to the virus before they were rescued, but not begun to show signs of the disease. Although all rescue cases are quarantined, there is still a small potential risk to other residents at the sanctuary.

The number of visitors to The Horse Trust has also grown over recent years. Last year, The Horse Trust welcomed approximately 25,000 visitors to its sanctuary; some of these are horse owners or riders who could inadvertently spread the disease.

The vast majority of The Horse Trust's residents are elderly horses over the age of 20, some with compromised immune systems. If an outbreak of equine influenza was to occur, these older horses would potentially be more severely affected than younger horses.

This vaccination program was facilitated through the support of pharmaceutical company Merial Animal Health, which provided the vaccine, and Julian Samuelson, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, managing partner of Bell Equine Veterinary Clinic and trustee of The Horse Trust, who is managing the vaccination program.

"We would like to thank Merial and Julian Samuelson for their generous support and for providing the vaccine free of charge, which has helped us to safeguard the health of our vulnerable residents," said Jeanette Allen, CEO of The Horse Trust.

Samuelson said that in his opinion the vaccine has the best performance of all those available on the market: "Unique vaccine technology is used, which stimulates the immune system by mimicking natural infection. It has the most up-to-date viral strains of all the U.K. vaccines and is the only one with the Ohio/03 American viral strain as recommended by the World Animal Health Organization. I fully support this program and this product for its excellent efficacy profile."

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