Changes to British Dressage Nettex championships

It was a bumper year in 2018 for British Dressage’s Nettex Associated Championships with more  than915 combinations taking part across 10 individual championships and 2019 is shaping up to be bigger and better than ever.

Its duo of venues hosting the new format Championships in Bury Farm and Vale View  has already been announced. These venues will provide two amazing competitions but there is further news for competitors.

Top dressage rider Carl Hester support Nettex Championships

Following feedback, the following rules will be implemented for the 2019 series in the Nettex Championships:

  • The level for the Draught and Arab Championships has been upped so there is now a Championship at Medium level.
  • In the Veteran Horse Associated Championships, winning combinations are no longer required to move up a level for the following year’s event. Understanding the stress on ageing horses, the Sports Operations committee agreed that previous winners should be allowed to defend their title.
  • In the British Native Pony, GB PRE, Lusitano, TGCA and RoR Championships, winning combinations at Medium level and above (where applicable) are no longer required to move up a level for the following year’s event so can return to defend their crown.

“The Nettex Associated Championships are designed to be an event for all.” Sports Operations Manager Lou Jones commented.

“We’ve listened to feedback from our competitors and hope that the recent changes will continue to make this Championship series one of the most inclusive on offer within the BD spectrum. With the continued support of Nettex, we’re sure that this year’s series will be the best yet.”

Serena Kidd, National Equine Business Manager for Nettex added:“The Nettex product range offers something for every equine no matter what breed, age and discipline and this truly British brand is delighted to be supporting the riders in the Associated Championships.

“With top dressage rider Carl Hester putting his trust in our brand, we are proud that Nettex delivers products and customer support for riders of any level.”

To celebrate this second year sponsoring the Associated Championships, Nettex is encouraging customers and competitors from last year to connect it on social media @nettexequine and share their Nettex stories throughout the year – #nettexequine.

Qualification for the Nettex Associated Championships got underway on December 1 2018 and concludes on August 31. To find out more about how you can get involved visit

How to deal with strangles

In our latest veterinary feature from Sussex Equine Hospital, vet Sarah Davidson MRCVS writes about Strangles.

Sarah Davidson MRCVS, Veterinary Associate at Sussex Equine Hospital

Strangles is a disease caused by a bacterium Streptococcus equi subspecies equi and affects the upper respiratory tract of the horse and more specifically the lymph nodes in this area. In 1% of cases, the bacteria can settle out and create abscesses in other organs of the body.

This is termed ‘bastard Strangles’ and can be fatal. It is endemic in the UK horse population, spreads quickly and easily and requires yards to be closed until they are deemed ‘clear’. As with all things, prevention is better than cure and this “article aims to outline how to minimise risk, prevent its spread and if an outbreak does occur, how to manage it and reduce collateral damage.

Yards that frequently see horses moving in and moving out should be more wary of Strangles, as opposed to smaller yards, where the resident horses rarely leave the premises or hack locally around the area.

Protocols that can be employed to reduce the likelihood of Strangles entering a yard are: requesting a blood sample be taken before a horse comes onto the yard; isolating new horses for a minimum of two weeks (10-25m away from resident horses); daily temperature checks; and being conscious of horse interactions when away at shows or competitions.

Strangles is most commonly transmitted by direct contact between an infected horse and a naïve horse, but transmission by equipment, personnel, clothing and boots is not unheard of. The bacteria is discharged from the nose and from any draining lymph node abscesses that may have formed. It can survive up to three days on fences and clothing and even longer in water troughs (up to four weeks). The incubation period, (the time from when a horse is exposed to when the horse shows clinical signs), is three-14 days, sometimes longer, and recovery time is approximately six weeks.

Some 90 per cent of horses recover from Strangles completely, but the remaining 10 per cent can harbour the infection for months or even years in their guttural pouches – a structure unique to equidae.

These horses are called carriers. They are immune to reinfection, show no clinical signs and periodically shed the bacteria creating the potential to infect naïve horses around them. Identifying and treating these horses is vital in disease prevention and stopping the spread.

How to recognise a horse with Strangles:

  • Dullness and an increase in temperature will be the first sign
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cough
  • Nasal discharge
  • Swollen lymph nodes that may form abscesses and burst out

While usually this is the extent of the disease, it can become more severe and in some cases be fatal. The swelling of the lymph nodes can obstruct the airway and this where the disease gets its name.  Airway obstruction is serious as the horse may require an emergency tracheostomy (a procedure to open the airway in the neck region) to prevent it from asphyxiating.

Another complication is a purpura haemorrhagica syndrome caused by bleeding from the capillaries resulting in small red spots on the skin and mucous membranes and also causing marked swelling of the legs and occasionally the head.

If you have a horse with any of the above symptoms, call your vet immediately for a check. Your vet will carry out a thorough clinical examination and take any appropriate samples to facilitate diagnosis.

This may be a blood sample, a swab from the pharynx, direct visualisation of the guttural pouches and a sample, or a combination of the above. Swabs and samples demonstrate the presence of the bacteria itself and the blood sample shows the immune reaction to the bacteria.

It can take up to two weeks to show a positive response and may remain positive for up to six months following recovery.

If you have a positive diagnosis, your vet will direct you specifically about how to manage the yard, but it is all based on a few basic points:

  1. The affected horse(s) will be isolated from all other horses. The ideal scenario is a stable or field at least 10metres away with all its own equipment and water source
  2. Staff members should not move between the isolation area and the ‘clean’ zone and the yard should be completely closed down to horses leaving or entering. This includes hacking out
  3. Horses will be divided into three groups and managed completely separately, foot dips and over-clothing should be used and changed between groups. If there are enough staff, the groups should be managed by different people, but if not, staff should work from clean to dirty across the day
    • RED – horses showing clinical signs even if ‘just’ a raised temperature. Cleanliness between horses is still important
    • AMBER – horses that were in contact with the affected horse, but are apparently health, for example, sharing a water trough, sharing equipment or stabled next door
    • GREEN – no known contact with horses in either the red or amber groups
  4. All healthy horses will have their temperature taken daily and any showing a raised temperature should be moved to the red group immediately
  5. Everyone who owns a horse on the yard should be made aware that Strangles has been diagnosed. There is commonly a lot of fuss and worry surrounding the diagnosis of Strangles, partly because on large-scale yards it can take a long time to bring under control and may end up having quite an economic impact. However, the fact remains that the more open people are about the situation, the better it can be managed by all involved
  6. Once horses are grouped in the red group, they are to remain there until three consecutive negative nasopharyngeal swabs are taken, or, for gold standard clearance, a one-off guttural pouch lavage with samples submitted for culture and PCR – a process that identifies bacterial DNA. This testing should be carried out a minimum of four weeks after the last horse resolves all clinical signs associated with the disease
  7. Horses in the green and amber groups should be blood tested

Assuming all tests come back clear, the yard can resume normal activity. Any positive or ‘grey area’ results will be treated accordingly’.

Treatment of a horse with Strangles is largely supportive unless complications arise. The use of antibiotics may be necessary in rare cases, but should be discussed with your vet.

Lymph nodes can be hot-packed to encourage maturation and abscess formation and some literature suggests that better drainage and resolution is achieved from this than by lancing the abscess before it bursts of its own accord. Identified carriers are treated by filling the guttural pouches with a gel form of penicillin followed by retesting two weeks down the line.

Good day’s racing at Plumpton

Plumpton Racecourse had the largest turnout at a February meeting since 2003, with 1,900 attending yesterday’s meeting. They were rewarded with some competitive racing at this popular jumps track.

Brandon Castle impressed when scoring his third victory on the trot over hurdles at the meeting.

Brandon Castle. with Bryony Frost up, on the way to victory
Photo: Plumpton Racecourse

Trained by Neil King and ridden by Bryony Frost, the 5-6 favourite won the RABI/Joan Collinson Memorial Handicap Hurdle over two miles.

Trainer Neil King
Photo: Jeannie Knight

The victory came at the expense of Arthington, trained by Seamus Mullins and ridden by 3lb claimer Kevin Jones, nine lengths further back in runner-up spot. Royal Hall, trained by Gary Moore and ridden by Jamie Moore filled third place.

There was compensation for Seamus Mullins later in the card when he sent out 5-2 favourite Plantagenet ridden by Mr Matthew Fielding to win the Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase over three miles one furlong and a half furlongs by five lengths. The seven-year-old was scoring his second victory over fences and there should be more to come.

Trainer Seamus Mullins

Plantagenet beat French bred Tzar De L’Elfe, a nine -year-old gelding trained at Sullington  by Richard Rowe and owned by Lord Clinton and Captain Adrian Pratt, ridden by Miss Gina Andrews. Tzar De L’Elfe seems suited to fences and has been runner-up twice, but is capable of a decent win.

The opening race of the meeting, a Mares’ Handicap Hurdle over two miles four furlongs, attracted 14 runners- but none of them could compete with course specialist Ding Ding, an eight-year-old chestnut mare trained at Lewes by Sheena West.

Ding Ding, Marc Goldstein up- a winner for trainer Sheena West Photo: Jeannie Knight

Ding Ding seems to love Plumpton and won comfortably by six lengths under a good ride from Marc Goldstein.

Dorset-based trainer Keiran Burke sent out the 5-1 winner of the Peter Earl Memorial Novices’ Chase, run over 2m3½ furlongs. His runner, Mine’s A Pint, ridden by Tom Bellamy, won by four lengths from 1-8 favourite Grassten, trained by Gary Moore and ridden by Josh Moore.

Nicky Henderson and jockey Nico De Boinville teamed up to win the Maiden Hurdle with four-year-old gelding Pentland Hills, which beat 8-13 favourite The Flying Sofa ( trained  by Gary Moore ) in impressive style by 14 lengths.

A cool down for winner Pentland Hills, trained by Nicky Henderson, following his Plumpton victory.   Photo courtesy of Plumpton Racecourse

Trainer Chris Gordon and jockey Tom Cannon rarely go away from a race meeting empty-handed. This meeting was no exception for they took the three miles one furlong handicap hurdle in fine style with 5-1 shot Jimmy,  relegating another Gary Moore runner, 9-4 favourite Ruby Yeats, into second place.

There should be more to come from the winner, which came to the race fresh from a decent break and should continue to progress.

The next Plumpton meeting is on Monday March 11.

Vision Des Flot wins the National Spirit Hurdle

The £80,000 National Spirit Hurdle meeting at Fontwell Park attracted a huge turnout on Sunday and crowds were rewarded with competitive racing.

The feature race proved to be a great success story for trainer Colin Tizzard, for he sent out Vision Des Flos to in the NetBet Casino National Spirit Race in good style.  The six-year-old had been knocking on the door of victory with placings in four of his six races this season. One of these had been as runner-up to Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air at Sandown.

Vision Des Flos, with trainer Colin Tizzard and jockey Tom Scudamore following his superb victory in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell Park yesterday Photo: Jeannie Knight

VisionDes Flos has run well throughout the race and went on in earnest from the second last, going on to beat the favourite for the race, The Cap Fits, by a length and a half.

Trainer Colin Tizzard is in fine form at present and revealed he had run Vision Des Flos three times in February because  his wind was not very good and he felt the fitter the horse was, the better he would be. He has now entered Vision Des Flos for the Champion Hurdle and the Coral Cup

“He stayed on well here. He travelled really well. He is in the Champion Hurdle and the Coral Cup, and on that running I’d say he would go for the handicap. You never know, if there are not many in the Champion Hurdle we may go there yet.”

As for the runner-up, trainer Harry Fry remains keen on stepping The Cap Fits to Grade One level at Aintree, despite being disappointed with his effort.

He said: “Noel (Fehily) said he never really travelled. It was frustrating we couldn’t run in the Kingwell last week. He wasn’t good enough today and Noel did well to finish second the way he was travelling.

“We vaccinated him last week. It was not the plan in such close proximity to a race. Hopefully his run was just down to that.

“He is not entered at Cheltenham and we have six weeks until Aintree and we still plan to go there. He was beaten a length and a half giving the winner 4lb.”

Josh Gifford Memorial Chase winner Whatswrongwithyou,, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville

The Josh Gifford Memorial Novices Steeplechase was won impressively by Whatswrongwithyou trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville. The eight-year-old gelding justified was sent off at evens and came home 17 lengths clear of the remaining two runners in this race. He will now be aimed at the Grand Annual Chase.

Local jockey Leighton Aspell won the Novices Hurdle race by ten lengths on board an up and coming youngster, Tarada, trained by Oliver Sherwood. A Kayf Tara gelding, Tarada was sent off at 9-4 and impressed with a positive run, moving into second and taking the lead in the closing stages of the race.

The next meeting at Fontwell Park is on Wednesday March 6. Gates open at 12 noon and the first race is at 2.10pm and the last at 4.40pm.




Preparations by BEF for leaving Europe

The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has been preparing for when the UK leaves the European Union on March 29 2019.

Although the conditions of the UK’s departure are not yet clear the BEF has been working closely with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as well as vets and other leaders in the equine industry to make sure horse owners are well informed of the preparations they need to make in the event of the UK leaving with No Deal.

The government has recently issued guidance to owners here.
Click on the four blue words for details.

The chief concern for owners will be transportation as there will be significant changes to the way that equines are moved to the EU from the UK.

Brexit is looming

Owners are being told they should take steps to prepare for a potential No Deal and should consult a vet at least six weeks before they intend to transport their equine as blood tests will be required to prove the absence of certain diseases.

There will also be changes to the documentation required for an equine to travel from the UK to the EU.

The BEF and DEFRA have compiled a FAQ on what action owners need to take. This can be found through the BEF website by clicking the blue word here:   Brexit.

As the conditions under which the UK leaves the EU become clearer, the BEF will continue to work closely with government and provide the most up-to-date information to owners.

National Spirit Hurdle Race at Fontwell Park

The highlight of Fontwell Park’s meeting this Sunday, February 24 is the Netbet Casino National Spirit Hurdle Race, which has attracted seven runners, including past winner of this race, Lil Rockerfeller.
This Grade Two hurdle race is worth £45,560 to the winner, with £17,096 to runner-up and £8,560 for the third placed horse.
Prize money continues down to sixth place.

Past winner of the National Spirit race, Lil Rockerfeller, following his previous , trained by Neil King,. He is aiming to win the race again . Photo: Jeannie Knight

Horses contesting this big race along with likely starting prices are: If The Cap Fits, trained by Harry Fry and ridden  by Noel Fehily  2-1;  Lil Rockerfellow (course and distance winner) , trained  by Neil King and ridden by Bryony Frost 8-1; Old Guard trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Harry Cobden 4-1; Ballymoy, trained by Nigel Twiston Davies and ridden by Daryl Jacob 10-3;  Vision Des Flos, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by Tom Scudamore 11-2;  Sussex Ranger trained  by Gary Moore and ridden by Jamie  Moore  40-1; Vive Le Roi, trained by Tony Carroll and ridden by Harry Bannister, 40-1.
Gates open at 12 noon and the first of seven jump races is at 1.50pm and the last at 4.55pm.


Tina Cook opens Petworth Schooling Course

On a rather foggy Saturday February 16, Tina Cook, multi medal winning Olympian rider, came to Petworth Schooling Course, to open the new cross-country training venue for West Sussex.

Set in the beautiful South Downs National Park, this course is an easily accessed, friendly training venue near Petworth, West Sussex. The aim is to provide a place for everyone to feel welcome, from the novice to the more experienced.

Using knowledge from members of the P.S.C. team and technical support from Adrian Ditcham, (designer of the London 2012 Olympic cross-country course), this venue has something for everyone.

The opening day comprised four training sessions of riders being coached over a variety of obstacles spread across the site.

Petworth Schooling Course has fine facilities

Many equestrians in the area, will remember the Petworth Horse Trials, on which this site is partially based.

The focus of this latest venture is on the grass roots level of eventing, with plenty for riders from Pony Club to adults, this was seen in the mixture of riders attending the day. The addition of the 400m uphill grass gallops, makes this a must for anyone training and ensuring their horse is fit.

Tina commented on the great selection of jumps offered on the course. She also remarked that the undulating ground makes this a great site for schooling for novice riders and horses- right through to more established partnerships, including her own horses.

For more details of up and coming clinics at this top class facility, what’s available at P.S.C., as well as how to book in for individual sessions, please visit the website at or find it on Facebook.

Poor prize money protests

Leading trainer Mark Johnston has labelled the prize-money for the novice races on Winter Derby day at Lingfield on Saturday as “ridiculous” after trainers forced one contest to be scrapped and another to be a walkover at the Arena Racing Company-owned track.

The prize-money row in began on Thursday morning when trainers protested en masse with no runners declared for the five furlong novice stakes from an entry of nine, while only the Nick Littmoden-trained Greybychoice was declared from the 18 entries for the mile novice stakes.

Lingfield Park at a previous all-weather finals Photo: ARC

The two races are each worth £4,500, compared to £5,800 last year.The protest comes as a reaction to Arc’s decision to cut prize-money by £3 million in response to the government’s crackdown on FOBT stakes.

Mark Johnston said: “I had two horses in the race and sent one to Chelmsford and the other has been entered at Southwell where the prize-money was £8,000 rather than £4,500.

“It gets to a point where it’s just not viable to take a horse all the way to Lingfield for that sort of money. We’ve done it in the past, but we’re not going back to the bad old days.

“The prize-money is quite ridiculous and the whole situation of Arc cutting prize-money in anticipation of a potential cut in the number of betting shops and funding due to the FOBT reduction, which is hypothetical at the moment, is out of order.

“The race values vary from 46-60 handicaps to maidens and better class races across the courses, but we always note the prize-money when making entries.”

Johnston is the leading trainer at Chelmsford since its reopening in 2015 and praised the prize-money levels at the Essex track owned by Betfred founder Fred Done.

He said: “The prize-money at Chelmsford is absolutely fantastic. I’ve been going there since its rebirth, and it might be a long way away, but we simply have to go as the prize-money is wonderful.

“It’s always been the case that we go to the tracks that offer the best prize-money.”


Clamp down on Aintree ticket touts

Sefton Council is aiming to introduce a Public Space Protection Order, which would make it an offence within a designated area to sell, offer for sale or advertise tickets for the three-day event.

The move has come after a vast increase in the practice in recent years.  The council wants to have the power to make tickets touts leave the area, as well as fine them £75. A public consultation will be held, ending on March 10 .

Grand National crowds
Photo: John Simpson

In a public announcement, Aintree managing director, John Baker said: “We would very much welcome the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order for ticket touting by Sefton Council.”

He added that Aintree prided itself on  first class customer service, and that also related to the perimeter of the racecourse, as well as within. He expressed gratitude to Sefton Council for its support in trying to eradicate the touts and said the racecourse will continue to work closely with the council.

Tickets for this year’s Grand National on April 6 are sold out, in all but one enclosure, but entry for other areas is still being advertised by one company which has faced major criticism in addition to bulk-buying touts.

Don’t miss Fontwell’s National Spirit Hurdle race

One race meeting not to be missed is that which features the £80,000 National Spirit Hurdle race at Fontwell Park, this coming Sunday, February 24.

This race at Fontwell Park always attracts top class horses and is one of the historic races featured on the annual calendar.

This will be the 54th running of the popular race, which is named after the dual Champion Hurdle Winner National Spirit. The horse was a regular runner at Fontwell Park in the 1940’s.

Salmon Spray, a top class horse of his time, won the inaugural running of the race and went on to  win the 1965, 1966 and 1967 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the 1964,  1967, and 1968 Schweppes Gold Trophy Hurdle.

2016 National Spirit winner Lil Rockerfeller trained by Neil King and ridden by Trevor Whelan
Photo Jeannie Knight

Today the race is widely regarded as a trial for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Fontwell has been a good track for subsequent notable winners of the race, for  Comedy of Errors went on to win the Champion Hurdle twice while in 2001 Baracouda won the race before going on to win two World Hurdle crowns for  French trainer, Francois Doumen.

A similar feat was achieved  by trainer Alan King  in 2006 when he sent out My Way De Solzen to success in The National Spirit before lifting the World Hurdle crown the following month.

Old Guard , trained by Paul Nicholls, with  Harry Cobden up, coming home to win the National Spirit Hurdle Race last year

Lough Derg won back-to-back renewals of The National Spirit Hurdle for David Pipe in 2008 and 2009 while Paul Nicholls has won three of the last five renewals of this top class race with Celestial Halo in 2011, Prospect Wells in 2013 and Old Guard in 2018.

Also Vagador, trained at Coombelands Racing Stables by Guy Harwood won The National Spirit Hurdle twice- in 1988 and  in 1990.

Sunday is a day of racing not to be missed at Fontwell Park.