EQUINE INFLUENZA AND MARYBOROUGH PONY CLUB
Due to the Equine Influenza outbreak in Australian the Maryborough Pony Club and all Victorian equestrian clubs including Riding for Disabled have cancelled all mounted activities including rallies, events and clinics. The Pony Club Association of Victoria has strongly recommended that Pony Clubs in Victoria cancel such events so that Victoria remains EI free. Victoria is currently equine flu free however; the risk of an out break can not be underestimated. Clubs that wish to conduct events are required to follow strict biosecurity guidelines. Biosecurity includes disease control measures aimed at breaking the cycle of infection and gathering as much information about animals and associated movements as possible. All horse owners must remain vigilant while EI is present in Australia and follow bio security guidelines. The Maryborough Pony Club is not in a position to be able to abide by the biosecurity guidelines in order to run events.
The cancellation of rallies and events has financially affected the club. The club has been forced to cancel a clinic, a showjumping and dressage day, our annual Schools Competition and five rallies. The fundraising from these events adds up to half the yearly income required to run our club. We are currently building new clubrooms and some of this income was committed to furnishing the new rooms. As well as the financial burden, the club members are really missing the contact pony club provides them and their families. The club has a membership of almost 50 riders between the ages of 6 and 26 years old. They meet monthly at rallies as well as at other times for events and clinics. The pony club year begins in May and this year the club had 9 new members. These riders have only been able to attend three rallies and they are very disappointed to be told that there will be no more rallies or events for the remainder of the year. The young riders of the club learn important safety and riding skills while at pony club and have a great time riding with their pony loving friends. Our older riders were currently preparing for Zone Championships in order to qualify to compete at state level. These events have been postponed till next year but with no rallies, events or clinics to prepare for such championships it put all the riders in the State at a disadvantage.
Recently the pony club has been awarded a grant to build new club rooms and storage sheds. The members are continuing to meet regularly to work on this project, unfortunately without their beloved horses. Currently the old club rooms have been demolished and the site will be prepared for the erection of the new rooms. Although members will be meeting without horse they are still required to follow strict guidelines to further reduce the risk of EI spreading. People can carry the EI virus from one horse to another. Horses can be infected from contact with the virus from human hands and clothing. Members from the club have been asked before meeting with other horse owners to disinfect footwear using any product containing quarternary ammonium compounds. They are also asked to wear a clean change of clothes and wash hands using an antibacterial hand wash. They are not to bring any equipment that has been used on or around their horses. If it essential to bring equipment it should be disinfected using any agent that contains hypochlorite. On leaving to return home members are then asked to disinfect footwear, change clothing and wash it prior to using it when in contact with a horse. Clothing should be washed in warm or hot soapy water. Hands are to be washed and any equipment used disinfected.
The club is disappointed that they are required to have such restrictions put upon them but realise that the EI situation is serious, and these restrictions are required. Although it is very disappointing for our riders to be unable to ride or compete at the moment, the club will be using this time to fundraise in other ways and continue the work on the new clubrooms. We are looking forward to Australia being EI free in the very near future.