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Disabled riding group caught up in equine flu outbreak

August 28, 2007

Equine flu Q & A

Ben, a young rider at Pegasus, has some fun on Mandy.
Pegasus Riding for the Disabled is the latest horse group to be caught up in Australia's equine flu outbreak.

Highly dependant on fundraising and donations to keep their community service operating, the ACT-based Pegasus had to cancel a key fundraising events on Sunday for fear of cross infection of horses.

"We've recently started a series of dressage competitions at Pegasus as a fundraiser for our programs for people with a disability," said Pegasus Executive Officer, Becky Layton. "The second event of the series was scheduled to be held on Sunday, but due the ban on horse movement in the ACT, we had to cancel the event at late notice."

The series of fundraising dressage competitions is set to bring in about $8000 - $10,000 this year for this not for profit community organisation that provides therapeutic, recreational and sporting activities for 100 people with a disability each week.

"It's actually a triple whammy for us," said Layton, "as at this stage we have also had to cancel our services to the community for fear of spreading the virus amongst our herd. Many of our volunteers have horses of their own and ACT government officials have warned us of the risk of spreading the flu across herds in Canberra. We are trying to keep abreast of developments and will keep our riders and volunteers informed as to when our programmes will be back up and running."

Pegasus has also had to put plans on hold for a major fundraising campaign that was set to coincide with the Melbourne Cup. Originally aimed at office workers celebrating the Melbourne Cup, 'Pass the Hat Around for Pegasus' was to be a 'Biggest Morning Tea' style campaign with registered hosts, literally passing around a hat on Cup Day to collect donations for the charity.

"'Pass the Hat Around' already faced a set back when the ACT government announced that Cup Day would be a public holiday in the ACT. Now there appears to be uncertainty as to whether the Cup will go ahead at all, given the flu outbreak", Layton said.

"We are so dependant on community support and donations to keep our service operating. It will be a big setback for us if our two key fundraisers are cancelled, as well as our riders having to miss out on their regular weekly lessons.

"Our twenty five specially trained horses remain our greatest concern. We just could not risk any of our wonderful horses getting sick - they are far too valuable to us and our riders".



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