The cough disease which is transmitted amongst horses at this time is according to many, a lot more intense than first assumed. In some places the disease has been around in some stables for almost two months and some of the horses are still sick.
The question is also what the repercussions after such a disease could be and how the training of horses still in recovery, should be handled.
This is also a great question of ethics. Should people go around places transmitting the decease to other horses? Of course people should not appear with dull and/or sick horses to competition or shows. So people should simply have the horses’ health and protection of their animals as a guideline and be careful in every respect.
Mette Mannseth, riding instructor at Hólar and horse farmer at Þúfur, says that the cough disease has undeniably caused a stir.
How is the situation with you?
All the horses in our stable are coughing. The horses are perhaps not very sick, but of course it is not possible to ride them and this situation has been ongoing for a month, from beginning of April. From the 40 horses we keep, about 5-6 have had temperature, otherwise the symptoms are not very clear and afterwards one sees clearly how it had been best to react to this.
I have talked with many trainers around the country and this seems to start in the same manner everywhere. The symptoms are that the horses become sickly, out of breath, nostrils wide open, they are dull – and then they start coughing. One or two horses are coughing, and then more horses start coughing and when a third of the horses have become sick, all of them are suddenly ill.
Our horses are starting to recover, but I had started working again on some horses that had been sick but a week later those horses became much more ill and some of them with a high temperature. Therefore, I would like to stress that it is very important to take off again with a slow start. We try to give the sick horses all the comfort possible, take their temperature, cover with blankets those horses that have shed the winter coat and make sure that they have fresh air and that they are dry.
Then, when we start riding them again, we will take them for short walks, only short distances at a time. Then we start taking them out for rides, just walking, for a while. They need to be monitored as far as shortness of breath, because they do not have as much stamina and they are not up to putting in effort after being “sick in bed”.
Certainly it is difficult to just wait and let the horses stand in the stables. But the way I look at it is that the health of the animals should be a matter of priority, even if you do not make it to the shows or into competition for the next months. I do not take any unnecessary risks with the horses, and the danger is that they develop chronic respiratory illness if they are not properly taken care of and that is of course horrible.
What do you think of people “deliberately acquire infection”?
I would like to strongly warn people not to get this infection, because it puts a great strain on the horses and for a long time. The vets say that it will become easier for horses to deal with this outside in the pasture where they have more fresh air.
How does this affect the instruction at Hólar?
We have had to cancel the finals for the 1st year students and cancel instructions on student horses. In the riding instruction division, we have tried to speed up and delay tests and the same can be said about the vocational training. This is in turmoil at the moment, and we have to rearrange the plan quite a bit, that is clear.
We want to thank Mette for this chat and for sharing her experiences and words of advice and hope that this couch disease will stop soon and will be mild on the horses that are already ill.