Your horse suffers from coughing, nasal discharge, shows a decrease in performance or even has difficulty breathing? There are many reasons for this. Possible infectious diseases caused by pathogens such as: – viruses – bacteria and – parasites
Sensitive horses, a weakened immune system and contaminated feed favor infections. Often acute respiratory diseases are treated too late or not sufficiently enough, so that recurrent infections or even chronic diseases develop.
Likewise, these chronic, non-infectious disease processes can cause the same symptoms listed above.
Do not ignore first signs
Often only a little cough is heard by the horse owners. At the beginning of riding already show a few small coughing bumps. After the end of the training, some horses also show a little nasal discharge. However, these signs are often not a "little cough" and "a little nasal discharge," but the beginning of a chronic process.
Not treating can have serious consequences. The "little cough" and the "little nasal discharge" can turn into a serious chronic problem sooner than you wish. The course of such chronic respiratory diseases is differentiated. Does not put every horse in front of the same suffering. However, it is clear that permanent respiratory infections will not only cause your horse to lose significant performance, but also quality of life. One of the worst cases is absolute respiratory distress, even at rest.
What can horse owners do to give their pets the best possible support for their horses' respiratory problems??
The answer always lies in adapted bedding and feeding management.
Since the domestication of horses, they are dependent on humans. The former wild horse moved through the steppe in a herd system. Took there various vegetable material to itself.
Today's working horse, on the other hand, stands in open, loose or box stalls mostly on the bedding we select and eats the roughage provided by humans. This attitude and feeding inevitably exposes the horse to much more dust. It is now up to the horse owner to keep the horse healthy. This also includes creating an environment for the horses that is as dust-free as possible.
But here lies the crux. Since horses are so-called "permanent eaters", i.e. they are ideally busy eating for more than 15 hours a day, they have their noses permanently in dusty bedding and even dustier roughage.
Hay as a traditional roughage
In our latitudes, it is not possible to provide horses with a winter free of vegetation and thus with annual pasture feeding. The human being, on the other hand, must continue to ensure that the horse is presented with sufficient forage rich in roughage. This happens by the preservation of the basic fodder grass.
The most traditional method for this is haymaking.
However, hay is the biggest factor in the development of inflammatory processes in the respiratory tract. It is produced by the process of drying. A large number of mites, bacteria and molds are produced as a by-product if the drying process is inadequate. Dust is also considered another product-typical problem in the conservatism.
It has been known for some time that even hay of very high hygienic quality has a high population of microbes hazardous to health due to the process of coservation (Vandenput et al., 1997). The most complained about problem of horse owners is the disease of the respiratory system (Holmquist et al., 2002). A study by C.E Muller proves that the great majority of horse owners and keepers have had negative experiences with the feeding of hay to the respiratory tract. This is also underlined by an analysis of Von Clausen et. Al.. This proved already in 2004 that the second most common reason for euthanasia of horses is respiratory diseases.
Haylage and silage as alternatives to traditional hay?
In theory, haylage is an alternative to conventional hay as a roughage with less dust and microbes. Unfortunately, very often the opposite is shown in practice.
Due to an insufficient ensiling process or procedural errors, microorganisms such as cloristides, enterobacteria and listerine develop in the haylage. These statute the anaerobic spoilage of haylage. This subsequently triggers aerobic spoilage by organisms such as molds and yeasts. Also the fermentation products and the acidity in the layers can lead to serious diseases. Furthermore, there is a risk of botulism. This is a life-threatening poisoning caused by small animals in the preserved bales.
Gastrointestinal diseases, such as colic or the free fecal water, are often associated with feeding haylage. Studies, such as that of M.J.S Moore-Colyer and A.C Longland, prove the fear of horse owners about feeding haylage, as the clear majority have negative experiences with feeding this roughage.
Other supposed alternatives on the way to hygienic roughage
Many horse owners, and now even entire barn operators, use soaking of hay to protect horses from the dust contained in hay.
The primary goal of this method is to bind the dust in the hay so that it does not enter the horse's respiratory tract. The binding of dust by watering is also successful, but it also causes the leaching of the nutrients contained, as well as an enormous microbial proliferation. An increased load of bacteria, yeasts, molds, etc. is the result. Is not purposeful, because also of these health hazards, such as diarrhea, decreased lung performance, liver stresses, etc. go out. How far does inhalation help. Feed additions for respiratory problems? Every horse owner dreads the diagnosis of COPD, RAO, IAD. But what to do if it is diagnosed by the veterinarian like this?
Many horse owners resort to the old familiar measures such as inhalation, medication or supplementary preparations. These work partially and to a certain degree well, but they can not attack the root of the problem. The cause must be eliminated. Not only to treat the symptoms! But how do you effectively keep the roughage at a high hygienic status. Binding respirable dust and killing harmful microorganisms? The answer is unconventional and unfortunately not yet as common as the method of watering, namely steaming hay!
.B the health-endangering fungus Aspergillus, takes place. In addition, the bacteria are also killed by the hot steam. Respirable dust is reduced up to 94% by this method.
The concept of the Haygain makes sense. Similar to a steamer, nutrients are preserved. Only the NSC value (non-structural carbohydrates) decreases. However, sugar and also starch is not necessarily considered a desirable ingredient in hay, as it can trigger insulin disorders. This imbalance of insulin production often leads to diseases such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), Laminitis and Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM).
Not only in theory, but also in practice, the Haygain has proven successful in horses suffering from diseases of the respiratory system. In summary, as with the watering, you have a very high dust binding and, in addition, an elimination of the harmful microbes it contains. Furthermore, the Haygain can be successfully used for gastrointestinal diseases caused by bacteria.
Haygain also proves to be the appropriate partner in daily roughage feeding for horses that are limited in water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) and non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) intake due to disease.
Further studies on this subject:
– James, R. & Moore-Colyer, M.J.S . The effect of steam treatment on the total viable count, mold and yeast numbers in hay using the Haygain hay steamer. Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL 7 6JS
– James, R. & Moore-Colyer, M.J.S.  Hay for horses: The nutrient content of hay before and after steam treatment in a commercial hay steamer. Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science Conference, Nottingham April 2013.
– Stockdale, C. & Moore-Colyer, M.J.S . Steaming hay for horses: The effect of tree different treatments on the respirable particle numbers in hay treated in the haygain steamer. 5th European Workshop Equine Nutrition Cirencester, United Kingdom 19-22 September 2010 EAAP Scientific Series, Volume 128
– From Clausen, M., Preisinger,R. & Kalm,E. . Analysis of disease data in the German warmblood breed. Breeding Science 62, S. 167-178.
– Holmquist, S. & Muller, C.E. . Problems related to feeding forages to horses. Proceedings of the XIIIth International Silage Conference, S.