Winter Equine Respiratory Health Challenges, Part 1.

Winter Equine Respiratory Health Challenges, Part 1.

Does your stable routine change during the year to manage your horses respiratory health? As the weather gets more extreme globally, with hotter summers & winters getting colder. The air circulating in our barns can contain an excess of airborne particles that are potential airway allergens and irritants and this changes with the seasons. Risks of impaired respiratory health are those that can especially be avoided by improving air quality in the stable or using innovative solutions. Specifically, the particles that often originates from feed, bedding or manure or from growth on stable walls, such as bacteria and fungi can be found in high amounts in the stable air (1). We as horse owners can help our horses be healthy in extreme Winter conditions by adapting our stable management routine slightly.

Horse health in the Winter

We need to adapt our stable management routine during Winter to help keep our horse’s respiratory health in top condition. If you have not already adapted your stable management routine, this article will help you keep your horse’s respiratory health in top form by preparing your stable for healthy breathing. Here are, 4 Actions to take in your stable this Winter.

1. Ensure Quality Ventilation

A balanced ventilation system facilitates the distribution of fresh air around the stable and usually consists of fans and a dust system. If your stable is old, you may not have the appropriate ventilation system in place to allow the circulation of fresh air and your horse’s respiratory system could be at risk of irritation. Ensure quality ventilation by leaving the windows open during the day and night. Although some may argue that cold air is bad for the horse to breathe and makes them cold, the truth is that the cold air from outside is usually much healthier than the air the horse breathes in from the stable equipment.

You may feel that the horses need to remain warm during the night and so the solution is to close the windows. This puts the horse’s respiratory system in danger as dust and ammonia build up when inadequate ventilation is present. Horses live outdoors naturally and although they are often body clipped and blanketed during this time of the year, studies show that domestication of horses had little effect on the adjustment mechanisms for temperature in relation to environmental conditions (2).

Airborne particles are cleared more efficiently at higher ventilation such that there are 27 air changes per hour (7). If you have concerns about your stable’s ventilation system, you can read more about it or you can check out the innovative equine nebulizer Flexineb to help manage y our horse’s respiratory health. Medications to treat common upper and lower respiratory infections can be administered to the horse using a horse nebulizer mask providing targeted medication delivery to the respiratory tract, these include Antibiotics, Bronchodilators, Corticosteroids and Mucolytics, we can provide a list of medications which are suitable for nebulisation in the Flexineb E3 via consultation, have your veterinarian contact us directly to access this list. The Flexineb mask produces very fine mist of aerosolized drug or natural therapy solution which is inhaled by the horse for respiratory treatment.

2. Choose Bedding to Keep Dust Levels Low

The choice of bedding material is particularly important in cold climate conditions; where horses are kept most of the day and year indoors throughout their life (3). Scientific research shows the difference between peat and shavings used as bedding material in stables. Although respiratory symptoms increased from both bedding types in the beginning, the health status of the horse’s respiratory system in the peat bedding group returned to the initial level in the end of the trial but horses bedded with wood shavings continued to be symptomatic of respiratory illness (3). It may be a good idea to replace wood shavings with crushed wood pellets since shavings have the highest results for bacterial contamination and crushed wood pellets have the lowest bacterial and fungal air contamination from a selection of straw, peat with shavings and crushed when results were drawn from arterial blood biochemistry tests and endoscopic evaluations of the upper respiratory tract (4).



Although different bedding types suit different horses for many purposes, we understand there are many reasons an owner or a management team will choose one type over another within the stable. If it is not possible to change your bedding type, look at alternative solutions for managing respiratory health in your horse because regardless of bedding type, stalls with low ventilation have significantly higher ammonia levels than stalls with high ventilation (7). The use of an equine nebulizer such as the Flexineb, can help you manage the financial and medial management of your horse and their respiratory needs by allowing quick efficient delivery of medications and saline and allows your vet to utilize treatment plans that may save you money immediately.

In part two of this series, we will continue to discuss the importance of winter care and we will discuss some important steps in how to successfully manage some of the issues we deal with as horse owners daily.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. Always consult your veterinarian if your horse as any health-related issue or is exhibiting symptoms.


1. Nardoni S, Mancianti F, Sgorbini M, Taccini F, Corazza M. Identification and seasonal distribution of airborne fungi in three horse stables in Italy. Mycopathologia. 2005;160(1):29–34.

2. Brinkmann, L., Gerken, M., & Riek, A. (2012). Adaptation strategies to seasonal changes in environmental conditions of a domesticated horse breed, the Shetland pony (Equus ferus caballus). Journal of Experimental Biology, 215(7), 1061–1068

3. Saastamoinen, M., Särkijärvi, S., & Hyyppä, S. (2015). Reducing respiratory health risks to horses and workers: a comparison of two stall bedding materials. Animals, 5(4), 965–977.

4. Kwiatkowska-Stenzel, A., Witkowska, D., Sowińska, J., & Stopyra, A. (2017). The effect of stable bedding materials on dust levels, microbial air contamination and equine respiratory health. Research in veterinary science, 115, 523–529.

5. Samadi, S., Wouters, I. M., Houben, R., Jamshidifard, A. R., Van Eerdenburg, F., & Heederik, D. J. (2009). Exposure to inhalable dust, endotoxins, β (1→ 3)-glucans, and airborne microorganisms in horse stables. Annals of occupational hygiene, 53(6), 595–603.

6. Gagnon, C. A., Elahi, S. M., Tremblay, D., Lavoie, J. P., Bryant, N. A., Elton, D. M., & Elsener, J. (2007). Genetic relatedness of recent Canadian equine influenza virus isolates with vaccine strains used in the field. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 48(10), 1028.

7. Curtis, L., Raymond, S., & Clarke, A. (1996). Dust and ammonia in horse stalls with different ventilation rates and bedding. Aerobiologia, 12(1), 239–247.

8. Oke, S., 2018. Ammonia & Respiratory Health. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 15 January 2021].

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