Local riders stranded by flu outbreak

ELIZABETH Watt and her 12-year-old daughter Stephanie are among horse owners 'locked down' at Morgan Park at Warwick in Queensland as a result of the equine flu outbreak.

"It's unreal. It feels like we're in jail. We can't get outside, there are huge gates and they're locked," Elizabeth told the Advocate.

And late yesterday Mrs Watt said Stephanie's 16-year-old gelding Flying Mouse was showing the first signs of the dreaded Influenza A virus which has brought the horse industry to a grinding halt right across Australia.

Mrs Watt, Stephanie and Flying Mouse are among about 250 riders and 300-odd horses that may have to stay at Morgan Park for more than a month until all the horses stabled there contract equine flu, recover from it and are cleared by vets.

The Watt family made the trip north on Friday to the Eventing World Cup in Warwick, where about 300 horses from around the world were quarantined on Saturday afternoon.

Stephanie Watt is a member of the state eventing team and wanted the experience for the Nationals, due to be held at Morgan Park in December.

Stephanie was about to ride in her favourite event, the showjumping, when the event was suddenly stopped on Sunday morning.

"It's amazing a World Cup can be cancelled halfway through," Mrs Watt said.

"All the Olympic riders are here."

Mrs Watt, a widow, had to leave her eight-year-old daughter Alex at home on the Coffs Coast with her sister and their other horses to make the trip.

She said yesterday Alex had been crying and asking her when she was coming home. But Mrs Watt has no answer to give her.

"Even if we left here, we couldn't go home for 48 hours because we can carry the virus on our skin or our clothes, so we can't go near other horses," she said.

"And we have to look after the horse he is in the stables, so he has to be fed and exercised twice a day and his temperature taken.

Mrs Watt said Flying Mouse had a low-level temperature and a runny nose yesterday. She said Rural Fire Service trucks were spraying and hosing down cars which were allowed to leave the site, but no horse floats or trucks could leave.

"They are trying to get it declared a disaster area," Mrs Watt said.

"All the horses are stabled next to each other.

"All the NSW horses have been blood tested and swabbed.

Three NSW horses competing at the Warwick event tested positive for influenza A in an initial generic test.

"There are three confirmed cases, but 30 horses are showing signs and it's growing every hour," she said.

"There is a huge team of vets here."

She said Morgan Park was only about twice the size of Nana Glen sportsground, but morale had been amazingly good so far, with riders organising high jumping on foot over the show jumps and everyone working together.

She said a bus had been organised for riders to get food; there was a canteen and horse feed was delivered to the gates of Morgan Park.

"Stephanie is a bit overwhelmed and hugely disappointed," she said.

But the Year 6 student may soon have to add study to her crash course in horse health.

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