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Riding for Disabled ponies vaccinated for equine flu

October 19, 2007

A young rider at Pegasus.

Twenty four invaluable ponies who work in the Riding for the Disabled programmes at Pegasus have been vaccinated against equine flu. Pegasus staff and vets from the Canberra Vet Hospital worked in the dark last night to microchip and vaccinate the horses.

The vaccination came about after a change in policy by both the NSW and ACT Governments. The list of priority horses for vaccination was expanded by the NSW Department of Primary Industries earlier this week to include Riding for the Disabled horses. The ACT Government has now broadened their vaccination policy to include Pegasus Riding for the Disabled horses.

"We will sleep much better tonight, knowing that we have done all we can to protect our horses," said Pegasus Executive Officer, Becky Layton.

"I have had many distressed riders, teachers and parents ring me over the last few weeks, very concerned for the welfare of our horses. Our riders develop a strong bond with 'their' pony and with all the media coverage of the flu, people were worried that our horses would get sick and, given their age, not cope well with the flu."

"With all of them now vaccinated we can be confident that, if the flu does spread further, our horses will have a greater level of protection, are less likely to suffer badly if they do contract the virus and they will not need as long a convalescence," a relieved Layton said.

Pegasus has been informed that it is national policy that any vaccination undertaken in the 'green zone' is at the cost of the individual/industry.

"That caused us great concern yesterday, as we were worried about how we could possibly find the necessary $7500, at such short notice. To our great delight a long-term supporter (who would like to remain anonymous) stepped forward immediately to help us pay the bill. They have done this on the understanding that we will put a further case to the ACT Government to provide us with a grant to meet the expenses we have incurred as a result of the flu."

Pegasus will now take advice from vets regarding the need to maintain strict biosecurity measures to stop further spread of the virus.

"Just because we have been vaccinated does not mean that this is all over," Layton said.

"My understanding is that we must remain vigilant in our bio-security. Our closure was actually due to the risk of volunteers who work in our programmes, but have horses of their own, inadvertently cross infecting horses through contact across herds. We will therefore need to carefully consider if and when we can get back to normal operation. We will continue to take a responsible approach to minimizing the spread of the virus and will not be rushing into any decisions about starting our programs again."

Pegasus is grateful to the ACT Government for its speed once it became apparent that Riding for the Disabled horses were a priority group. It took only 12 hours from the time the policy shift came to light, to the actual vaccination of horses.



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