A HORSE sanctuary has been forced to close amidst an outbreak of strangles disease.

Only Foals and Horses in Oswaldtwistle closed this week after two horses caught the highly contagious infection, which is much like the common cold in humans.

Visitors are being told to stay away until further notice, and this weekend’s Halloween Open Day has also been cancelled, which will cost them thousands.

Posting on Facebook, the sanctuary said: “We are sad to announce that our Halloween open day has been cancelled. We are taking our vets advice and shutting the stables for a few weeks due to an isolated case of strangles.

“Sorry for any inconvenience and we will let everyone know once it is safe for the public to come up and visit once again.”

Trustee of the rescue centre, Lyn Moir, said it was very upsetting and they are heartbroken.

She said: “We don’t know how the horses have contracted strangles as they don’t go out so maybe someone has brought it in with them as it’s passed on through touch.

“We’ve got two horses that now have it and we’re trying to keep them in isolation to prevent it spreading.

“We’ve got to remain closed until two weeks after the last horse or pony has got better.”

The sanctuary, which relies on donations to keep it running, houses and cares for 57 ponies and horses.

Ms Moir said the last time they had an outbreak of strangles disease, many years ago, half of the horses contracted it.

And although not immediately life threatening, if not treated it can be dangerous. 

Ms Moir added: “We rely on donations from the public to look after the horses and the open day was going to bring a lot of money in. We probably won’t be able to have our Christmas open day either. We’re heartbroken.”

Only Foals and Horses is appealing for donations for the vet bills. For information, visit their Facebook page.