THE North Devon stables of a top racehorse trainer have been temporarily closed after horses at the stables were diagnosed with EHV-1, otherwise known as Equine Herpes.
The virus is a neurological disease which can cause inflammation of blood vessels in the spinal cord or brain.
And the outbreak has forced trainer Victor Dartnall, who races his horses at top venues like Cheltenham, Wincanton and Chepstow, to temporarily close his yard.
Mr Dartnall said staff at his stables first picked up on the disease when some horses started to run high temperatures and “rather worryingly” developed symptoms.
He said: “My understanding is that most horses carry the virus sub-clinically, but it can mutate and that is what seems to have happened.”
Although Mr Dartnall is not legally required to quarantine the stables, he said he had done so because he felt it was “best practice”.
It is not known how many of Mr Dartnall’s horses are affected but he confirmed it was a “significant” outbreak which was “very damaging” to his business.
“My vet’s working constantly with the British Horseracing Authority and we’re hopeful things are under control,” he said.
The BHA’s Robin Mounsey said it was “dreadful news” for the stable.
“Victor has done everything spot on. He’s quite distraught as you can imagine and it is very sad news for him,” he said.
It is thought Mr Dartnall’s stables will be in quarantine until at least the new year. One source said it would remain quarantined until six weeks after the last positive test for the disease.
As a result of the outbreak several hunts on Exmoor which were due to take place this weekend have been cancelled.
Exmoor Foxhounds, Devon and Somerset Staghounds and Dulverton and West Fox Hounds have all cancelled this week’s hunts as a precaution, although the disease is not easily spread.
EHV-1 can be transmitted through the air from respiratory infection or by close contact between horses and although it can be treated, in some cases it can be fatal.
Exmoor Foxhounds’ chairman Sir Richard Peek said: “Until we know how this is going on, we thought it would be sensible to stay quiet for a couple of days and find out when the quarantined period has gone past.
“It doesn’t seem right to be taking horses and hounds across ground where people might be unhappy that there might be a disease about.”