For the rider and horse lover it is often a devastating diagnosis: horse allergy.
There it goes, the dream of having your own horse, of regular riding lessons, of the next tournament participation… But there is hope! We show you what possibilities you have as an allergy sufferer to enjoy your time with horses free of complaints.
In some cases, however, the diagnosis of "horse allergy" is actually the end of the "horse" hobby. When this is the case depends primarily on the severity of the allergic symptoms that occur.
What is an allergy?
Allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction of the immune system. Symptoms may vary. Swelling of the mucous membranes is particularly frequent, the nose drips and the eyes water. The skin also often shows reactions, especially in the form of itching and rashes. Even asthma (seizure-like, high-grade shortness of breath) can be caused by an allergic reaction. In an emergency, an acute emergency can occur in the form of anaphylactic shock.
In the course of life, the symptoms can often worsen or even further allergies can occur. Medications can alleviate or prevent the symptoms, but not lead to a cure.
What causes allergies?
On the one hand, there seems to be a genetic predisposition to allergies. Children whose parents are already allergic have a significantly increased risk of allergy.
On the other hand, the increase in allergic diseases, especially in western industrialized countries, is attributed by researchers to the fact that the immune system of children and adolescents is insufficiently activated by extreme hygiene measures. Dirt makes healthy!
At least in moderation..
In addition, other factors may play a role, especially lifestyle and environment: smoking, polluted air, stress, smaller family sizes, changing dietary habits, but also the shorter breastfeeding period of young mothers and a resulting higher allergy risk of the child may play a role. It has also been shown that children of women who had contact with animals, grain or hay during pregnancy suffer less from allergic respiratory and skin conditions.
What to do?
In general, it is recommended to avoid contact with the allergen as much as possible. This allows the immune system to "calm down" again, while constant contact can lead to an escalation, so to speak. For horse lovers with an allergy, this is often a bitter decision.
Homeopathic remedies and alternative healing methods such as acupuncture or even bioresonance can bring considerable relief to some sufferers. Which remedy or method works really needs to be tried on an individual basis: What helps one person may be ineffective for another.
Classic medications such as antihistamines or cortisone preparations, which are often used in the treatment of allergic symptoms, usually work quite reliably, but they also put a considerable strain on the body. It should therefore be discussed with a doctor whether and in which dose such preparations can be used.
In severe cases, there is also the possibility of a specific immunotherapy, the so-called hyposensitization. The allergen is administered in slowly increasing doses either by injection or in drop form. This therapy is usually well effective. Hardly any side effects. Such a treatment can take weeks, but also years. Whether this therapy makes sense and is applicable in the individual case, must be decided in each case by the treating physician.
An allergy should not be taken lightly. The body is under considerable stress.
Special case of horse allergy
In the case of an allergy to horses, the hair is often considered to be the trigger. In fact, mites and spores that live in the horse's coat are often the decisive allergen, as are proteins in the skin and hair. Whether a horse allergy is actually present is best clarified by an allergy test. A blood test provides reliable information. Only if the cause is clarified, an allergy can be effectively addressed.
Since the horse allergy will seldom weaken on its own and medications cannot be taken in unlimited quantities without hesitation, in severe cases it is indeed necessary to refrain from contact with horses. No petting, no riding, often just the proximity to horses is enough to cause a reaction.
Every affected person must decide for himself what his horse hobby is worth to him. Some people are certainly more sensitive in this respect than others. Sensibly, however, one's own health should always have priority.
In milder cases, there are some simple measures that can already provide relief for the allergy sufferer. This begins with not grooming and saddling the horse oneself, but actually – like the gentleman rider of earlier days – only getting into the saddle to ride and leaving the care of the horse to someone else before and afterwards.
For many riders, however, this "before and after" is quite rightly an important and indispensable part of their contact with the horse, since it is precisely here on the ground that a close relationship with the horse can be established.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the allergen load in the horse's skin and hair mechanically. Thus, a good medical mouthguard can successfully help to protect the respiratory tract: Dust and mites must stay outside! Some allergic riders have also had good experiences with cleaning the horse with a horse vacuum cleaner – this way dust and hair do not buzz around you, but are sucked in and settled directly.
In addition, it may be useful to wear gloves. This prevents the rider from accidentally rubbing particles adhering to their hands into their eyes later on.
After grooming the horse, the hands should be washed thoroughly in any case, then the face as well. Clothes for stable and pasture are stored separately and washed regularly.
The right horse!
There is further hope: studies have shown that not every horse is equally allergic to them. "low allergen" are especially the Curly Horses (American Bashkir Curly Horse, American Curly Horse). Despite the name, however, the breed has nothing to do with the Russian Bashkir horse.
These horses do not shed as much as other breeds, producing more sebum and thus binding allergens; in general, they have different types of proteins in the dander. The strong sebaceous secretion is noticed already when touching: The fingers become oily. The smell is also more reminiscent of sheep's or lamb's wool than the typical horse smell. Some (a few) allergy sufferers also react to CurlyHorses with severe symptoms, but for others the symptoms resolve over time, and many allergy sufferers generally do well with Curly Horses.