Between spring cleaning, fresh hay in your barn, and the allergens in the air, prioritizing your horse’s respiratory health becomes more important than other. Whether you have a horse with known respiratory issues or want to simply keep all of your horses healthy, these tips can help.
Focus on providing plenty of ventilation within your barn. You can do this in multiple ways. Opening up all of your windows and doors can create cross-breezes, and using barn fans, if you have them, can help to generate airflow.
If you don’t yet have open stall fronts, consider making some changes to increase airflow into your horse’s stall. Installing stall grills in the stall fronts and in stall partitions can naturally increase ventilation to your horse. Installing stall doors or stall guards that let your horse hang his head out into the aisle can also maximize ventilation while providing valuable socialization opportunities, too.
Hay is full of dust and can make respiratory issues worse. Consider soaking your hay to help remove dust and prompt water intake throughout the spring and summer. You can soak hay in a variety of ways, but putting it into a hay net and soaking the entire net in a bucket or bin is one of the simplest options.
Alternatively, consider steaming your hay instead. The availability of hay steamers like the Haygain steamers makes this option more accessible to barns than it’s ever previously been. Steaming hay helps to reduce dust, which can reduce airway inflammation in your horse.
Throwing hay down from a hay loft can stir up more dust. Try to only throw hay down while the horses are turned out, and if possible, avoid throwing hay, entirely. Storing hay in a separate building can reduce the dust in your stable and improve the air quality for your horses.
Offer Plenty of Turnout
While maximizing ventilation in your barn will definitely help your horse’s respiratory health, don’t forget the value of getting your horse out of the barn entirely. Some horses with respiratory issues simply do better when they spend a maximum amount of time outdoors in turnouts. Focus on ways you can ensure your horses spend as much time outdoors each day as possible, whether it’s changing your feeding schedule or adding runs onto your horse’s stall.
Choose Your Bedding Carefully
Your horse’s bedding can play a role in the dust that’s present in your barn. Straw tends to be dusty and has the potential to hold mold spores. Wood shavings, while popular, can also be dusty, especially if they’re not turned over daily or are particularly fine. Wood pellets and peat are some low-dust bedding alternatives. If it’s in your budget, consider investing in a stall comfort system that helps to maximize the comfort of the stall floor. With these systems, you can typically use less bedding, which means less dust, too.
With a little extra effort, you can help to support your horse’s respiratory health. He’ll be more comfortable in the stable and better able to perform under saddle when you change your stable management to focus on maintaining quality air and a healthy environment.