Our Top 5 tips for Managing the Horses Stable Environment for Respiratory Health
When we think about the environment, we put our horses in, stables barns etc , we are forcing them into a challenging space for their respiratory health. Although we do it for their wellbeing -it can be a double-edged sword! Modern day horse keeping, and particularly when horses are in work and training, means that horses live in stables significantly more than they used to, & it's not just to keeping them warm and dry in Autumn and Winter!! When living out in pasture 24/7 is not an option, this adds more stressors and challenges to our horses respiratory system & as a result, we see more evidence of underlying respiratory issues.
Some simple changes can make a significant difference to your horses wellbeing – a well horse – is a horse who will feel better, compete better and do the job you need them to do – better!
Firstly, the factors we need to take into consideration is everything in their stable – from the bottom to the top!!
Flooring – be it concrete or rubber matting – everything needs to be disinfected and cleaned, remove all cobwebs and get the hoover out if you have to! The level of dust which accumulates on cobwebs can be quite significant and is often a forgotten source of irritant for many horses. Get those hoovers out!! We mean it!
Bedding – Use as low dust bedding as possible, dust extracted wood shavings, dampened wood pellets which expand to a comfortable bed or a fully sealed rubberised floor with minimal bedding for soakage is ideal. A sealed floor ensures urine cannot flow underneath the matting causing bacterial build up.
Forage – Soaked or steamed hay is the preference, some feel haylage (dry hay but wrapped in plastic when harvested so retains a higher water content) as its not overly dry or dusty can be excluded from being a concern, however haylage can also contain spores which can be harmful to respiratory health. The only way to ensure your forage is somewhat sterile – is to steam at a high temperature – for a significant period of time. Studies have shown that DIY steamers can infact increase the spore and harmful bacteria content in forage so be aware of this!!
Feeding – Forage should be fed from the floor or ground level from a slow feeder – utilising nets at a low height can pose a risk of injury to your horse. Feeding from ground level is not only better for their musculoskeletal system – but mimics the natural grazing position which encourages mucous drainage.
Forage Storage – with many new design open plan stable blocks and ‘American Style Barn’s’ which commonly store hay overhead or in a section of the building, its imperative to remember, that storing hay near your stabled horses (in the same air space) can also pose a risk to irritate. If you go to the trouble of having all other factors dealt with, having them living right beside the winters hay supply can defeat the purpose and impacts the effect of your carefully planned bedding/steamed forage combination you have put in place for your horse.
Remember it is not just their stable that counts – it the entire area!
Have you seen our other article on Managing the asthmatic horse in a boarding or open plan barn facility? You can view it here