A Halifax equestrian school forced to cancel programming and put its horses into quarantine after a few of the animals contracted a respiratory illness, has started an online fundraising campaign to help with the financial impact.
Within a day of creating the post on GoFundMe, the campaign had raised more than $4,000 of its $30,000 goal.
The Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers, a not-for-profit school in downtown Halifax, announced it was shutting down temporarily last week after discovering the presence of strangles.
Strangles is a highly contagious upper-respiratory-tract infection that affects horses and other equines.
Kathleen MacMillan, an assistant professor at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island, says that the name originates from the infection causing the lymph nodes in the throat to swell up, hampering the horse’s ability to breath. But she says the name is scarier than the actual infection.
“For the most part, horses will resolve without any treatment at all other than just supportive care but you will see complications in up to 20 per cent of horses,” MacMillan said.
“Fatalities can be as common as one percent of the population maybe higher depending on the severity of the infection.”
The school plans to remain closed until the end of June at least.
“We’ll reassess halfway through the month probably, but it could be longer than that,” said Angie Holt, the Lancers’ manager and head coach.
In addition, the school has cancelled fundraisers including its 27th annual Downtown Horse Show. There’s also the possibility they will have to suspend some of their summer camps, which are an important source of revenue for them.
“It could have a fairly serious financial impact. We rely on our programming fees to keep us going day to day, even when things are going well,” said Holt.
This represents the first time in its 84-year history that the Lancers have had to close due to health concerns, and it’s the first time any of its horses have contracted strangles. The Lancers owns 26 horses, which do not have owners who pay board or vet bills.
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Holt says the horses that have strangles are in stable condition, but it’s too early to say they are recovering. Halifax Regional Police’s mounted unit horse, Sarge, is one of the horses confirmed to have the infection.
“The horses are doing pretty well. They’re being very well cared for by staff around the clock. Their symptoms haven’t been so bad,” she said.
The horses that don’t have strangles may still have been exposed to the illness and could become sick.
Holt says many people have contacted them to offer to volunteer, but the school has had to turn them away. Instead, she’s hoping the community will consider donating to their cause.
“We’re very grateful for all the concern and help that we’ve received,” Holt said. “We hope to get through this in one piece.”