An outbreak of equine flu has forced the cancellation of all British racing yesterday, with races expected to be suspended until at least next Wednesday and horse owners are being urged to be vigilant to any symptoms.

Equine influenza is a highly infectious disease of horses, mules and donkeys. Symptoms in non-immune animals include high fever, coughing and nasal discharge.

Race meetings have been cancelled while the sport’s governing body awaits test results from more than 100 stables that could have been exposed to equine influenza.

Representatives from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) made the decision on Wednesday night after the Animal Health Trust confirmed three positives tests from vaccinated horses in an active racing yard.

In a statement, the BHA reported horses from the infected yard raced on Wednesday at Ayr and Ludlow, adding identification of the virus in vaccinated animals presented a "cause for significant concern".

The BHA statement added: "The action to cancel racing has been viewed as necessary in order to restrict, as far as possible, the risk of further spread of the disease.

"The BHA has worked quickly to identify which yards could have potentially been exposed today and identify the further actions required."

The governing body's also released a statement urging horse owners to contact their vet if they have any cause for concern: "In light of the recent confirmed Equine Influenza (flu) outbreaks, we urge owners to be extra vigilant of the clinical signs of the virus and to contact their vet immediately if they have any concerns."

Gemma Stanford, Director of Welfare for The British Horse Society said: “We are aware of today’s news regarding the Equine Influenza outbreaks and we urge all owners to be extra vigilant of the clinical signs of the virus."

“Diseases such as equine influenza are debilitating and can have serious implications for horses, especially young foals, elderly animals or those with pre-existing respiratory disorders.

“You should contact your vet immediately if you have any concerns.”

Signs of equine flu:

  • The sudden onset of a dry, harsh cough which can continue for two to three weeks and potentially persist for longer
  • A rise in temperature for one to three days
  • A nasal discharge that is initially clear but becomes thick and purulent
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

If you suspect your horse has equine influenza, you should contact your vet. As soon as a horse shows any suspect signs, strict hygiene and isolation procedures should be adhered to.

Horses that have been in contact with an affected animal should be carefully monitored and should not attend shows. It is recommended that horses on a stable yard with an outbreak of equine flu do not leave the premises while the outbreak is ongoing.


Equine flu is difficult to control, especially in horses that are frequently transported and mixed extensively. Outbreaks are most common when young susceptible horses are brought together at sales and shows, or for weaning and training. Vaccination is the preferred method of control and is compulsory when competing under British Horseracing Authority, FEI and affiliated governing bodies’ rules in the UK.

The current vaccination schedule is:

  • 1st vaccine
  • 2nd vaccine (21-92 days after first)
  • 3rd vaccine (150-215 days after second)