Southlands Riding Club in Vancouver has detected the highly infection disease strangles in a recently arrived rescue horse named Valentine. (Southland Riding Club/Facebook)

A prestigious South Vancouver riding club is closing immediately after a newly arrived rescue horse tested positive for the highly contagious equine disease known as strangles.

"During this time measures will be taken to decontaminate and sanitize the property," said spokesperson Bronwyn Wilkinson in an email,. "The goal is to ensure the grounds are safe and ready to open as soon as possible."

Southlands Riding Club had originally invoked a three-week quarantine before the board of directors elected to close the facility Tuesday morning.

The strangles bacteria — streptococcus equi — was recently detected in a nasal sample of a horse named Valentine who arrived at the club approximately two weeks ago after being rescued from an Alberta meat pen.

"Valentine was vet checked in Alberta before coming to Southlands and showed no signs of strangles," Wilkinson said.  

The upper respiratory tract disease causes high fever and swelling around the jaw and neck which can restrict breathing. Strangles isn't transferable to humans, and isn't usually fatal, but it can make horses seriously ill. 

Southlands put out a bulletin outlining the extraordinary precautions members and other horse owners in the area are being asked to follow to prevent the disease from spreading, including:

  • Keeping horses in barns or at home.
  • No Southland horses allowed to leave the club unless for urgent medical care.
  • No mixing of horses from different barns.
  • Anyone working in multiple barns should have different clothing and boots for each barn. Boots should be sprayed with bleach.
  • Recommendation to take a horse's temperature at least once, but preferably twice a day.
  • No grazing on boulevards or public areas.
  • Do not allow horse to sniff manure or lower heads to the pavement.

​Wilkinson say there are only four rescue horses stabled on the Southland property, and that club members normally keep their horses at other barns in the Southlands area.

With files from Farrah Merali