Thursday 15th of October 2020

Keeping your horse healthy when travelling

It is currently common practice for horses to be contained in a confined space for prolonged periods of time, whether it is while they are stabled or being travelled. There has been lots of published research looking into the dust environment surrounding horses while they are stabled, however nothing so far has looked at the impact of dust during travelling.

A study by Haygain examined the dust environment while travelling a horse in a lorry and if different treatments of the forage could affect this. Hay was administered with three potential treatments; soaking, steaming and dry. 

The research looked into the airborne dust concentrations which proved to be significantly greater around a horses breathing zone in the lorry compared to the general stable environment. Horses are highly sensitive to dust and mould particles, therefore excessive inhalation of these could lead to breathing problems, both short and long term. This has been shown to be the case in stables but it is yet to be seen if these factors have the same effect while travelling.

The prevalence and positioning of these dust particles is highly relevant to equine health and particularly the competition horse. Performance horses exert a large amount of energy for their chosen discipline and the respiratory system is of great importance to being able to compete to the best of their athletic ability. 

Respiratory conditions such as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) can be very damaging to a horses performance career, with the respiratory system proving to be the most limiting factor in a racehorse. This therefore makes any improvement to a horses dust environment whether it being while stabled, or travelled or both very important to ensure as high a quality of performance as possible. This even applies to recreational horses that should remain in the best health possible.

The study analyse the use of a 5kg haynet and an air sampler for each journey time of 30 minutes. Once the journey was complete the filter papers of the air sampler were taken to the labs and studied under a microscope so the dust particles could be counted. 

The results are as expected; dry hay produced the highest amount of dust particles, followed by soaked hay and finally steamed hay producing the least amount. Steaming is becoming a much more popular way to treat hay and in this experiment it was shown that soaking hay produced twice as many dust particles in comparison to steaming.

It has also been shown in a previous study that steaming hay not only improved the dust environment in the immediate breathing zone of stabled horses but also in the general stable environment. This could make it even more appropriate for travelling horses, especially for multiple horses, due to the confined space any improvement to the general environment would greatly benefit the horses health. Steaming is therefore shown to be the most effective treatment for reducing respirable particles when travelling a horse.

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