Footpaths and bridleways near a cattle farm that had an outbreak of with Foot and Mouth Disease will be closed, the British Horse Society announced Aug. 8.
In the past week, veterinary authorities confirmed that cattle on two farms near Surrey were infected with FMD.
Horses cannot be infected by FMD but can carry the virus on their hooves, skin, hair, and possibly in their nasal passages. Therefore, equine movement is often restricted during an outbreak of FMD.
The U.K.'s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has designated areas surrounding the affected farms as surveillance, protection, or restricted zones, depending on proximity. Maps designating the most recent zone borders are posted at www.defra.gov.uk/footandmouth.
"The horse industry and the farming industry have a very close and symbiotic relationship," said Mark Weston, BHS director of access, safety and welfare. "I would urge all horse riders within the protection zones to keep their horses on their own premises for the time being to assist in the prevention of the spread of this awful disease."
The BHS has urged horse owners in the area not to move their horses if they live on premises where there are susceptible animals (such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, llamas, alpacas, and deer). Where there are no such animals, horse owners should not take their horses to farms that have susceptible animals.
Lee Hackett, BHS welfare senior executive, said in a statement that many horse owners have contacted the Society asking what they can do to prevent the disease from spreading.
"By publishing these guidelines, we hope to help horse owners support the farming community during what is a very worrying time," Hackett said. - Erin Ryder