A veteran UK racehorse trainer has criticised poor hygiene in racecourse stables, as the British Horseracing Authority cancelled all UK racing till at least Wednesday, February 13th in an effort to contain equine flu.
The BHA has requested swabs from around 100 different training yards whose runners might have had contact with horses from the yard of Donald McCain.
Concerns have been heightened by news that three of McCain’s horses tested positive to the virus despite being vaccinated in accordance with BHA regulations.
In a new statement, issued late this afternoon UK time, the BHA said because it could take three days for horses to exhibit symptoms, it could not assess the likelihood of racing resuming until Monday.
The BHA said: “This precautionary approach is intended to ensure we put the health of the horse population and control of the virus first, and avoid any unnecessary risk that might come from returning to racing too quickly.
“We appreciate the impact that this may have on the sport commercially, but disease control in order to mitigate the risk of further disruption to the sport – and safeguard the health and welfare of our horses – must be a priority.”
A number of stables had already put themselves in voluntary lockdown, including those of 10-times champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls.
Meanwhile, veteran Newmarket trainer Mark Tompkins has criticised the hygiene regime at many British racecourses; the BHA has already instructed Wolverhampton, Ayr and Ludlow, where McCain had runners this week, to undertake a “deep clean.”
In his blog Tompkins says: “The BHA has been warning us for a while now that there have been cases on the continent and in Ireland, plus a few isolated ones here in Britain.
“A snotty nose, higher temperature, off their feeds and glands up are the main ones [symptoms] to look for. But, at this time of year and with horses moving about as much as they do, you would occasionally get ones like this which would be overlooked. How do you stop all this? Well, biosecurity and cleanliness is the main way, keeping everything well disinfected and taking all the precautions you can.
“We have so much racing nowadays and with racecourses wanting more and more fixtures they don’t have time to clean the stables properly.
“Even yesterday at Ludlow, horse feed was found in a stable from the previous meeting. A horse had already been put in the box before it was discovered. It obviously hadn’t been mucked out, or disinfected, as all this costs money and manpower, which the racecourses say they cannot afford, or it is a cost-cutting measure?
“We have had a lot of examples in recent months of this. We also have a sale nearly every day, horses are running all over the world and transporters bring them in from every point of the globe.
“The BHA seem to be powerless in preventing an outbreak and I just hope that this now concentrates a few more minds, but it will cost a lot more money.”