The Coughing Horse

The coughing horse

According to Dr David Marlin (equine exercise physiologist, researcher, author and Professor of Physiology at Oklahoma State University), if your horse is coughing there is a very high chance it has respiratory tract inflammation.

 'But my horse doesn't cough'

You may think that your horse never coughs, but in reality, you might not actually hear your horse coughing as you may only be around them for a few hours a day.“Studies have shown that horses may cough once and then three hours later cough six times, then 12 hours later cough twice, etc. They do not cough regularly like people.

So unless you fit a video camera, or put a microphone in the stable, or spend 24 hours with your horse, you won’t know how often he coughs,” explains Dr David Marlin.

There are many misconseptions about horses coughing. It is often believed among the equestrian communities that it is okay for a horse to cough, especially a few times when warming up. However, according to vet Stephanie Davis a horse with a healthy respiratory tract rarely to never coughs.

Implications of respiratory tract inflammation

A recent study showed that 88% of horses examined suffered from Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD). A respiratory tract infection can have a serious impact on the quality of life of your horse:
  • Nasal discharges 
  • Increased respiratory rate 
  • Increased respiratory effort 
  • Flaring of the nostrils 
  • Respiratory noise, at rest or during exercise 

    Also the performance of your horse can be impaired: 

  • Poor recovery from exercise 
  • Loss of energy and lower performance.

How to reduce IAD

One of the main causes of IAD is respirable dust and a major source of this is hay.

A new landmark study just published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine shows overwhelming evidence for the effectiveness of Haygain steamed hay in reducing Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD) in horses. No other method tested in the study was found to be as effective.

- Horses fed steamed hay from a Haygain hay steamer were 65% less likely to develop IAD. 

- The impact of IAD on performance was also shown. Poor performance/exercise intolerance was more frequent in horses with    fungal particles found in their airway than horses without 

 - The alternatives to steaming hay did not significantly reduce the risk of IAD 

 - Feeding soaked hay, feeding haylage, or commercial ‘dust free’ hay did not decrease the risk of a positive IAD diagnosis. 

Haygain Hay Steamers eliminate 99% of mould, fungi, yeast and bacteria in hay and up to 98% of respirable dust particles whilst retaining the nutritional value and improving palatability. 

The ComfortStall Orthopaedic, Sealed Flooring System also reduces dust in the stable by reducing the amount of bedding required  by up to 75%. Being sealed it is also easy to clean, in turn helping to keep stable dust to a minimum. 

Why not soaking?

Soaking hay in water wets airborne particles to keep down dust, but there are a number of obvious disadvantages to this method. It is a physically arduous, cold, wet and messy taskIt uses 60-100 litres of water.

Soaking leaves live micro-organisms in the hay; these quickly multiply, particularly in warm, damp conditions, thereby compromising the hygienic quality of the forage. 

Soaking hay reduces respirable particles but leaches nutrients out of the forage and, as with partial steaming, bacteria levels increase by two to five-fold.

This produces poor quality, contaminated forage which can raise the risk of enteritis and colic.

High losses of WSC, protein and minerals occur when hay is soaked for as little as 10 minutesThese nutrients in the waste water produce a post-soak liquid 9 times more polluting than raw sewage which must not be disposed of in storm drains.