Poison batch of feed kills six horses

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The Independent Online

Six horses - including one belonging to a former Olympic three-day eventer - have died in the past three weeks after eating a freak batch of thrashed rye grass, it was revealed yesterday.

The manufacturer of big bale process grass, Eurobale, yesterday admitted it was "mortified" at the deaths and last week spent "thousands of pounds" recalling a batch which it had bought from an unnamed farmer in Skegness.

The batch is responsible for the fatal poisoning of the six horses, all of which suffered the symptoms of botulism. Botulism, a usually fatal cause of food poisoning, tends to kill only one horse a year on average in Britain.

The first horse to die was at De Montfort University in Leicester three weeks ago. More than a week later, Alfred, an experienced eventer, died in the Grantham yard of Tiny Clapham. Miss Clapham, a former Olympic rider, is trying to save two of her other horses which have taken the bale by using an anti-serum available from Guy's hospital, in London.

Last Wednesday, the 18-year-old cob Blue, belonging to the exhibitor Hazel Armstrong-Small, was put down at its home in Epping, Essex. Other horses in Lambourn and Kent have also died from the bales.

The Nottingham-based bale manufacturer Eurobale, which has produced 11,218 tons of forage for race horses and riding stock since 1993, has not previously suffered any problems.

Richard Brooks, who runs the company with his father, Geoff, said last night: "We were mortified to discover the deaths and would like to express deep concern for the owners. We always grow our own grass and we only bought from this farmer in July because it was a dry summer. We won't be buying from him again."

Eurobale has sent samples of the tainted grass to the Ministry of Agriculture's agricultural development and advisory service and are helping with an inquiry.