We all know how critical clean air is to your horse’s overall health, happiness and performance, but the equine environment is a challenging place to maintain it. The essentials of hay and bedding bring an inherent respiratory risk of dust particles to the stable. This is especially true in winter, when stable doors and windows can be kept closed to keep out the cold and wet but are also prevalent during the summer when your horse may spend time stabled due to the heat and flies.
If your horse has a nagging cough that’s proving tricky to diagnose - poor air quality could well be the cause, but there are things you can do to help.
The first step toward clean stable air is the messy process of shaking loose dust and dirt from beams, corners and behind doors, equipment and matting. While you’re doing this, all horses should be turned out well away from the stable. Mind your own respiratory health, too. Consider a surgical mask or tie a bandana over your nose and mouth to keep out the big particles.
Start at the top. Use a broom and ladder to rid the rafters of spider webs and nests. Nesting birds might seem harmless guests, but they’re also disease carriers. Work your way down each stable wall, looking for loose nails, splintered wood and other dangers. Plan ahead to strip stall bedding near the end of its life cycle. Remove rubber matting and pressure wash them outside, ideally with a disinfectant, and let them air dry completely. Examine the floor for depressions that are or could become places for urine to accumulate, along with the unhealthy ammonia odours that come with that. The floor underneath your matting will harbour bacteria and moisture so it’s important to let it dry out completely.
Check your hay quality
Getting the stables clean is one thing, and keeping it that way is another. Happily, many challenges can be mitigated by proactive yard management. Hay, for example, is one of the biggest culprits in poor air quality. Even the highest quality, most expensive hay arrives with spores, bacteria and allergens that compromise equine respiratory health – and yours, too.
Checking hay before buying it, or on arrival, for discolouration's or odours that indicate mould is an obvious first step. Next is storing it in a well-ventilated, rodent-free area, separate from where the horses live. Bales should be elevated off the ground to prevent moisture accumulation.
Steaming is the best way to rid hay of its respiratory risks. By injecting high volume steam, at a temperature exceeding 100°C, thermal hay steaming chests from Haygain reduce breathable particles up to 99%. The process also kills mould, bacteria, fungal spores and mites, providing much cleaner air for you and your horse.
Keeping his bed clean
Similar air quality benefits start at ground level. Daily removal of manure and soiled bedding is the obvious starting point, but thinking beyond that to what’s underneath the bedding and matting is the key to long-term clean air.
A best option is a wall-to-wall impermeable flooring sealed to walls like that from Haygain, the revolutionary ComfortStall® system. The cushioning reduces the need for bedding to only that necessary to absorb urine. Less shavings or straw bedding equals less dust. And, the easy removal of urine-soiled bedding prevents build-up of urea and bacteria that leads to ammonia, a major airway irritant. The initial cost is quickly recouped by decreases in maintenance and bedding expenses and easier breathing too.
Ventilation is a horse keeper’s best friend in maintaining clean air in the stable. Capitalise on it by making dust, debris and cobweb removal a regular part of yard routine, minimising its quantity in circulating air.
For more information and industry-leading research, please visit www.haygain.co.uk.