Dressage, Horse Health & Performance

What’s That “Weird Thing?” – Hay steaming cures severe cough for a talented dressage mare.

Lynda’s new horse was fine when she arrived in California, from Oregon. But a progressively worse cough was worrisome.

Lynda Goodfriend’s new horse, Brooke, was fine for the first month after arriving in the Los Angeles area from Oregon last fall. “Then all of a sudden she started coughing a little bit when she went to work,” says Lynda, a dressage enthusiast. “It got worse, with a lot of nasal discharge. Then, it got much worse and she really could not take a step without severe coughing.”

The mare’s vet first suspected a common cold and treated it as such. That didn’t help. Neither did the next step: steroids to suppress inflammation. Environmental allergies were the next cause considered, but even if that was identified as the culprit, the only cure — moving Brooke to a different area – was not an option. Lynda works full-time and needs to be relatively close to her horse in order to have time to enjoy her.

“Ultimately, I decided I had to be the one to figure it out,” Lynda shares. Hay was the recurring theme in her research into allergies. The mare had been on orchard grass, as she had been in Oregon. A switch to timothy hay that appeared to be cleaner and less dusty reduced the mare’s cough a little, but not enough. “Then I read about the Haygain Hay Steamer, and It all made sense. And if nothing else, it sounded like the hay would taste better and be healthier.”

What’s That Weird Thing?

“She has gotten much better,” says Lynda of her 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood by Indoctro. The previously severe coughing reduced to one or two sputters at the beginning of exercise. Those went away when Lynda added an extra step of wetting the shavings in Brooke’s stall to dampen the dust they produce.

Indeed, hay and shavings are the biggest contributors to poor air quality inside the barn. Inhalable irritants found in even top-quality hay and in bedding are the biggest contributors to respiratory distress that most vets consider the biggest performance limiter in otherwise sound horses.

A full-time career as a college professor prevents Lynda from getting to the barn every day. Her groom has found it easy to incorporate daily steaming and Lynda handles it herself on Sundays. “It’s quite simple to do.”

Along with significantly helping her horse, hay steaming has raised some eyebrows from her fellow dressage enthusiasts at the barn. “They can be quite opinionated,” she laughs of barn friends who asked, “What is that weird thing you are doing?” But the pleasant scent of freshly steamed hay has made them fans and the mare’s response attests to its benefits.

Brooke’s vet is impressed with how the mare has improved on steamed hay. Lynda is happy and relieved. “It was so hard to see her suffering and miserable,” Lynda says of her “amazing” horse. And, based on how Brooke takes to her hay, “It must taste as good as it smells!”

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