Keeping horses indoors is a normal part of modern stable management, but it’s not always the most natural nor the healthiest choice for the horse. The levels of respirable dust are far higher in a stable than they ever will be in the open air and this can have an immediate impact on respiratory health, so if a horse has to be stabled it is important to minimise the exposure to dust.
In order to limit a horse’s exposure to dust, it is necessary to measure where stable dust is coming from and when dust levels are at their highest. Multiple studies have shown that respirable dust levels are affected by the choice of bedding, the forage that is fed and the stable management activities that are carried out.
For example, various common horse care activities can raise the levels of respirable particles in the stable including mucking out, adding new bedding and sweeping the floor.
The dust levels measured in the daytime were twice as high as night-time levels, showing that stable management activity has an enormous impact on the amount of dust in the air and therefore that the horses are breathing in. Therefore, if it is possible, it is wise to remove horses from a stable when mucking out and sweeping is taking place.
While all the contributory factors listed above have an impact on the horse’s respiratory health, it is important to be able to measure exactly what is in the horse’s breathing zone, the air the horse takes in with every breath. Researchers have used cyclone personal air samplers to measure the dust particles in a horse’s breathing zone as it goes about its normal daily routine in the stable.
The results of these studies showed that, while the choice of bedding is important when you are trying to reduce dust levels in the stable, it was actually the feed chosen that impacted the quality of the air breathed in by a horse most of all. In addition, even if the stable is incredibly well-ventilated, any dust present in forage will be breathed in as the horse selects and eats their food. Using a Haygain Steamer (from £695.00) to treat hay before it is fed lowers the dust in a horse’s personal breathing zone by 99%, ensuring the horse can eat for hours on end without risk of respiratory disease.
In addition, while American-style barns have other benefits for horse health and stable management, they were worse for respiratory health than traditional stable blocks where each horse has its own individual space when the dust in the horses’ breathing zone was tested. The ideal combination for promoting good respiratory health is for a horse to be bedded on good quality wood shavings, in an individual stable and fed steamed hay.
Haygain has developed a range of easy-to-use hay steamers perfect for both leisure and competition yards, ensuring horses around the world have access to palatable, dust-free forage when stabled.