SADDLING UP: Kerry Johnston, from Ballina Riding For the Disabled Ballina, and farrier and Paradise FM announcer Marc Cheong, w
SADDLING UP: Kerry Johnston, from Ballina Riding For the Disabled Ballina, and farrier and Paradise FM announcer Marc Cheong, w

Northern Rivers horse flu restrictions lift

By MARY MANN AFTER almost three months off, Sunny the horse is ready to get back to work.

Horse flu restrictions have been eased on most of the North Coast, meaning owners of organisations like Ballina's Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) can get back into action.

Kerry Johnston, secretary of Ballina RDA, was one very happy camper yesterday.

"It means we can definitely start up again in February, after the Christmas break," she said.

"It's a huge relief. It makes everything so much easier."

Ballina's RDA branch has been closed since August 26, after the outbreak of equine influenza.

That means the 60 riders with disabilities have not been able to ride in the weekly sessions at the Mitchell Centre, North Teven, since then.

But the 13 horses still needed to eat. Ballina RDA has been spending about $300 per week on feed, with no income.

Luckily the community got behind the association and with the help of community radio station Paradise FM, raised $9000 for the horses.

"Businesses and individuals donated $600 per horse," Ms Johnston said.

"It was just wonderful, and so helpful."

As of yesterday, 10 million hectares moved from high risk (amber) to lower risk (green) for horse flu, including most of the North Coast, Northern Tablelands and north-west NSW.

The downgrading follows tests confirming these areas are free of horse flu.

The only part of the North Coast still in the amber zone are the northern parts of the Kyogle and Tenterfield shires, near Woodenbong.

A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Phil Beaven, said this was because the area served as a buffer zone between NSW and Queensland, which was still infected with equine influenza.



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