An outbreak of strangles among the wild New Forest ponies is spreading, according to an article in The Salisbury Journal, a United Kingdom weekly newspaper. (Read the full Journal article here.)

Although no definite numbers have been released, reports indicate more than 10 ponies are currently infected, according to the article.

The New Forest pony herd includes around 4,000 animals. The ponies are privately owned, but run wild in the 93,000-acre forest. They are collected annually for sales of young stock, and veterinary care. It is believed the outbreak started in a boarding barn before entering the pony population.

New Forest Pony Association and Registry President Linda Kindle likens the arrangement to a wildlife sanctuary. She says while the ponies run wild, they are closely monitored.

Since the outbreak, only dangerously ill ponies have been removed from their herds for veterinary care, noted the article. Those not considered to be in mortal danger continue to roam.

Owners of domestic horses on land bordering the park are being cautioned to separate their horses from any ponies that share the border. It has also been recommended that riders avoid bringing horses to the infected areas (currently the northwest sector of the park), noted the Journal.

Strangles is an infection of the lymph nodes in the head and neck caused by Streptococcus equi bacteria. Abscesses in the lymph nodes and a thick nasal discharge are the characteristic signs of strangles infection.

While the mortality rate is low (2.6%), strangles is very contagious, with infected horses shedding the bacteria for several weeks after recovery. S. equi is spread by direct contact via the nose or mout