A Highland trekking business which was hit by the contagious horse disease Strangles could lose its licence for long distance trail-riding holidays tomorrow.
Highlands Unbridled, based at Northwilds by Tain, has applied to Highland Council for a renewal of its licence.
There have been 16 objections to the application from others in the region’s riding community, however.
It follows the outbreak of the Strangles disease at the site in August.
Jan O’Neill, owner of Highlands Unbridled, questioned the motives of the objectors, claiming a number were from competitors.
But Charlotte Fraser, a vet who carried out an inspection on the premises, said she cannot be assured of the applicant’s standards of management, and has recommended that the licence to carry out long distance trail rides be refused.
She advised that a provisional licence, for local trekking hacking and lessons, operating from Northwilds only, could be issued with a number of conditions.
A report before the Highland Licensing Committee tomorrow (tues) recommends that members follow the vet’s advice.
Ms Fraser said in a report: “The horses and ponies seen today show consistent evidence that the riding establishment operates at full stretch with no contingency plans or spare capacity.
“The Strangles outbreak had put extra pressure on those horses used for the trail riding, and this had been compounded by difficulties finding suitable grazing while away from Northwilds.
“Footcare, especially for those that are shod, suffers as there is not an arrangement with a farrier when away from the premises.
“The presence of minor saddle sores on so many animals raises concerns that saddles may not be fitted properly in the first case and/or skin lesions do not get a chance to heal properly in the second. No advice has been sought from a suitably qualified saddler.”
Mrs O’Neill said they had been working closely with the council, SSPCA and vets following the Strangles outbreak.
She said: “We are deeply disappointed that the council are recommending that we lose our license to offer trail riding holidays as this has been a hugely successful part of our business for many years.
“Our trail riding holidays are regularly listed in the top 10 rides in the world and we attract clients from all corners of the globe, who come to Scotland specifically to ride with us.”