A RIDING centre near Abingdon is in lockdown to protect horses around Oxfordshire from a 'nasty' virus. 

Four horses at the Crofton Manor Equestrian Centre in Hampshire have died due to the highly contagious equine herpes, and the centre has been in quarantine since the first case was confirmed on Tuesday.

The virus has two major strains that cause disease - EHV1 and EHV4 - with both capable of causing respiratory problems, and potential abortion in pregnant mares.

As a precaution, Riding for the Disabled Abingdon temporarily shut down its yard at midday yesterday and plans to stay closed until Saturday, January 25.

It clarified that the main reason was not due to concerns over equine herpes, but due to a case of another virus called strangles that had been reported nearby. 

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The centre is based in Southmoor and provides horse riding facilities as therapy for children and adults with a range of special needs and disabilities.

A post on its Facebook page said: "For a variety of reasons we have decided to go into lockdown.

"Should there be more cases of either virus, we will review the situation, but we hope that this will not be the case and we can return to normal life.

"We have such a huge number of people coming in and out of our yard, a large number of whom have horses of their own, that should we get it, we could spread it right round Oxfordshire and beyond.

"If we did get it our yard could be closed for months. We are sorry about this, but know that you will all understand."

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A post on the page on Sunday revealed that a suspected case in Hanney turned out not to be herpes, but 'another nasty virus' called strangles.

It added: "We take our responsibility as horse owners very seriously.

"Not only do we want to keep our yard open, but are also very aware of all our volunteers, and their own horses."

The centre has 165 volunteers, many of whom own horses or ride in other yards.