10th February 2019
About 70 riders followed the Blackmore & Sparkford Vale Hunt from their meet at Marsh Court in Dorset on 09.02.19, contrary to biosecurity advice from The Hunting Office with equine flu at large. Photo © Hounds Off
Horse racing was suspended last week after an outbreak of equine flu at a Cheshire stables. Equine flu is a highly contagious and unpleasant viral infection which affects the respiratory system in horses. Explaining its decisive action, the British Horseracing Authority said (7 Feb), “The health and welfare of our horses must be a priority.”
It is unfortunate that some of the hunting world has chosen to carry on regardless.
Despite Horse & Hound reporting (8 Feb) advice from The Hunting Office*, “Where there are training yards in the area it may be sensible not to hunt this weekend,” it was actually business as usual for many mounted foxhound packs across the British Isles (9 Feb).
One such hunt was the Somerset-based Blackmore & Sparkford Vale, where about seventy riders turned out on horseback to gallop behind dogs chasing the scent of foxes. Blackmore & Sparkford Vale Hunt country is known for having some big stables, including Paul Nicholls Racing at Ditcheat, Colin Tizzard Venn Farm Racing Ltd at Milborne Port and Millfield School at Street where equine flu was confirmed on 8 Feb.
Hounds Off Founder Joe Hashman said, “If the Blackmore & Sparkford Vale Hunt genuinely cared about the health and wellbeing of horses they’d have suspended all mounted hunting immediately. The fact that they have chosen to carry on hunting demonstrates how prepared they are to put horses at risk rather than lose a days play.”
© Joe Hashman; Founder, Hounds Off
* The Hunting Office is the administrative hub for the Council of Hunting Associations. The Hunting Office exists to help and advise Masters and its member Hunts. It represents and supports packs of hounds from fourteen hunting associations in England, Scotland and Wales, providing advice on all matters regarding hunting activities, hunt management and hound health & welfare.