Riding stables facing 'heart-breaking' plight after outbreak of horse herpes forces closure

ANGLIA 020423 Tess and horse Pakefield Riding School
Credit - ITV ANglia
Owner Tess Hardy with one of the horses at the stables Credit: ITV Anglia

An outbreak of disease is threatening the future of a riding school which has been running for 76 years.

Pakefield Riding School near Lowestoft has had to close temporarily after an outbreak of herpes among its horses.

Three horses out of the 30 horses have been diagnosed with the disease, which can lie dormant but then flare up.

They are having to be kept in isolation from the other animals and the stables must stay shut until at least April 17.

Owner Tess Hardy, 90, set up the riding school in 1946. She said the outbreak was a fresh blow after the business had managed to weather the Covid pandemic.

"We were beautifully booked up for Easter and all of this has had to be cancelled and my tummy is just churning round and round and I have felt very stressed."

Some horses at the school are having to be kept in isolation Credit: ITV Anglia

Herpes lies dormant in horses but can flare. When it does it is very contagious, so the horses have to isolate.

The school is still recovering from the impact of Covid and income is down this winter as the cost of living bites and families rein in their spending. 

Chantelle Cable, who works at the school, said it faced expensive medical costs to have blood tests for every horse.

She said: "You start thinking where's the money coming from if we don't have money coming in? It would be utterly heart-breaking to lose this place."

One of the horses at Pakefield Riding School Credit: ITV Anglia

The community has now come together to help - with dozens of offers of help and donations. 

A fundraising page has been set up and they have raised £5,500 so far. 

The school helps those from disadvantaged communities, particularly people with disabilities, to enjoy riding.

Supporter Anne Baxter said: "My daughter has autism, dyspraxia, hypermobility  and epilepsy, and the staff at the riding school have always  been so very supportive  of her needs.

"It would be a great loss to our community  to lose such an amazing business."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know