Herringbone patterns raked into the barn aisle and an obsessively organized tack room often suggest a clean stable environment. Horses, however, don’t give a hoot about that. If your New Year’s resolution involves a maintaining a healthy barn, rethink what that means from your horse’s perspective.
Creating a truly clean living environment is the best, simplest and most proactive way to protect and improve horse health. Stable air quality is important all year and especially in winter, when many horses spend most of their time inside.
Hay & Bedding
Unfortunately, two substantial horse keeping components are the biggest contributors to unhealthy barn air: hay and bedding.
Even hay of good nutrient quality is loaded with dust, mold, fungi, bacteria and other potential allergens. As the horse nudges his nose into each meal, all that is inhaled and can travel through the upper airway and into the lungs. Along the way, these microscopic, invisible particles irritate the delicate lining of the respiratory tract and trigger inflammation. This is the root of respiratory challenges that affect over 80 percent of active sport horses, often without obvious symptoms. Even a single, sporadic cough can indicate a problem.
Clean hay is a key to prevention. Hay that is “good quality” from a nutritional standpoint can still be loaded with microscopic airway irritants. All hay is grown in dirt, harvested by heavy equipment and, usually, transported long distances on highways. It has stuff in it besides nutrients!
Soaking hay is one way to reduce dust, but that has drawbacks. It leeches the things you do want in your hay — nutrients — and it can accelerate the growth of things you don’t want in your hay: bacteria, mold, etc. Haygain high-temperature steaming is becoming a go-to hay treatment for horses of all kinds and around the world. It is scientifically proven to eliminate up to 99% of the microscopic particles found in hay.
Unlike soaking, it does not leach hay’s nutrients. Many veterinarians recommend it as a proactive approach to preventing respiratory problems and treating or managing existing issues.
Less Bedding Is Better
Stall bedding is another major contributor to unhealthy barn air. It’s tempting to equate quantity of shavings with quantity of love for our horses, but the opposite is true when considering stable management from a horse health perspective.
Haygain can help here, too. Therapeutic foam that is the core of its ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring eliminates the need of bedding for cushion and comfort. Only enough shavings or pellets to absorb urine are needed, greatly reducing the amount of dust in the stall and barn. A small quantity of low-dust bedding is an ideal option.
Equally important to healthy barn air quality, ComfortStall’s one-piece layer of durable rubber is sealed to the stall wall. This prevents urine from seeping through to the base as happens with traditional stall mats. The unhealthy and unpleasant accumulation of urine and ammonia is a non-issue with ComfortStall.
ComfortStall’s unique construction and wall seal facilitates easy cleaning and sanitization. The flooring, in fact, is in daily use at Cornell University’s Veterinary Hospital where it was installed in the surgery center over 10 years ago.
It can be hosed down and power-washed without worry of water seeping below the surface. Compared to the process of hauling out heavy stall mats for cleaning and digging and drying out deep wet spots in the stall base, ComfortStall is a low-labor choice for maintaining a truly clean, healthy barn.
Haygain steamed hay and ComfortStall flooring address the root causes of unhealthy barn air. With these proactive and practical steps, neatly raked barn aisles and beautifully hung bridles are icing on the cake for horse keeping that is clean in the ways that matter most.