New Study: Feeding Haygain Steamed Hay Reduces Incidence of Horses Developing IAD by 63%

Written by Haygain Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The abstract of an important new study, which was presented at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in June 2016, has found that steaming hay with Haygain reduces the factors responsible for Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD) in horses by an impressive two-thirds.

The study was conducted in Europe throughout 2013 and 2014 by Dr. Julie Dauvillier and Dr. Emmanuelle van Erck-Westergren. 482 horses which had been referred for a regular health check, poor performance or respiratory issues, were scoped and their case history and results recorded.

The results found 84% of the horses examined were suffering from IAD and that in 72% of all horses the presence of different types of fungi in the airways was established. This ranged from Aspergillus through Penicillium to Mucor,Absidia, Geotrichum and Candida.

According to the researchers, the sources of these problems were found to be the bedding and forage. They discovered that horses had a 3.8 times greater chance of being diagnosed with IAD if fungi were found in their airways.

An important outcome of the study was finding that after analyzing all the forage options (dry hay, soaked hay, haylage or Haygain steamed hay) steamed hay not only had the lowest risk but was the ONLY method which significantly decreased the risk of IAD.

This means feeding horses Haygain steamed hay alone could reduce the incidence of IAD by a remarkable 63%. Or, in other words, it reduced the chances of being diagnosed with IAD by an impressive 2.7 times.

In fact, this was found to be true even if hay-steaming were the only environmental management change made in the horse’s care regime.

Further, the study showed that while soaking hay or feeding haylage showed a limited reduction in respirable particles, only steamed hay significantly reduced the risk of disease [by almost two thirds].

Aside from being laborious, soaking hay is associated with many negatives, it leaches nutrients (Moore-Colyer, 1996) the resulting post-soak liquor is an environmental pollutant (Warr and Petch, 1992) and it increases bacteria levels hugely, compromising the hygienic quality of the forage (Wyss and Pradervand, 2016). Haylage is not suitable for all horses and although lower in respirable dust compared to dry hay also benefits from improving the hygiene quality by steaming. As such, the best course open will always be to steam the horse’s forage.

The study concluded that IAD is highly prevalent from environmental conditions, in particular from bedding and forage. It found that the presence of fungi was very noxious to horses’ health but that proper environmental management, in particular steaming hay, had a massive impact and was shown to be uniquely effective at reducing the risk of illness.

Dr. Van Erck-Westergen had already stated in the past that IAD is in fact significantly more prevalent than is generally assumed. This partly results from the lack of obvious symptoms associated with IAD in many horses.

Indeed, there are several other research papers which supports this. Gerber et al (2003) looked at airway inflammation and mucus in two age groups of asymptomatic well-performing sport horses and found that although clinically healthy, all of the examined horses housed in a conventional stable environment showed evidence of inflammatory airways. Allen et al., (2006) found lower airway inflammation in 70% of National Hunt horses referred for poor performance and Nolen- Walston found that 81% of the 98 cases they looked at retrospectively had evidence of airway inflammation.

The abstract has now become available in poster format, and was also presented at the Annual Journées de la Recherche Equine in Paris recently. The full article outlining the methodology and full results is expected to be published later this year.

Learn more.

Shop for Haygain hay steamers here.


ACVIM June 2016 “The Prevalence of Fungi in Respiratory Samples of Horses with Inflammatory Disease” by Dr. J Dauvillier and Dr. E Westergren.

Allen, K. J., Tremaine W.H., Franklin S.H., Prevalence of inflammatory airway disease in national hunt horses referred for investigation of poor athletic performance. Equine Vet J Suppl. 2006 Aug;(36):529-34.

Gerber V, Robinson NE, Luethi S, et al. Airway inflammation and mucus in two age groups of asymptomatic well-performing sport horses. Equine Vet J 2003; 35:491495.

Moore-Colyer, M.J.S. (1996) The effects of soaking hay fodder for horses on dust and mineral content. Animal Science. 63. 337-342.

Nolen-Walston, R.D., Harris, M., Agnew, M.E., Martin, B.B., Reef, V.B., Boston, R.C., and Davidson, E.J. (2013) Clinical and diagnostic features of inflammatory airway disease subtypes in horses examined because of poor performance: 98 cases (20042010) Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, April 15, 2013, Vol. 242, No. 8 , Pages 1138-1145

Warr, E., and Petch, J (1992) Effects of soaking hay on its nutritional quality. Equine Veterinary Education 5: 169-171

Wyss, U. and Pradervand, N. (2016) Steaming or Soaking. Agroscope Science. Nr 32 p32-33 

Posted in General

Haygain Forager

Written by Haygain Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Benefits of Slow Feeding with the Haygain Forager

In their natural environment, horses spend 60% of their time grazing, and 40% of their time exhibiting other natural herd behaviours. Since we have domesticated horses, this ratio has drastically been changed. Horses fed high-energy concentrate meals a few times a day with limited forage available leave them with only 10% of their time spent feeding, and 90% of their time exhibiting other behaviours.

Horses are designed to graze all day long, and their overall health is dependent on constantly consuming small amounts of forage. Slow feeding allows your horse to constantly eat, promoting his or her natural behaviour, while also avoiding the risk of obesity by regulating the amount of forage the horse can eat at one time.

Feeding forage at a natural pace: That's pure horse sense.

The scientifically-designed Haygain Forager regulates your horse's speed of consumption, which helps bridge the gap between natural behaviour and stabling.

The Forager comes with two different regulators of varying aperatures. These holes are designed to allow your horse to forage naturally by pulling hay through a little bit at a time. Unlike hay nets with small holes, feeding from the Forager does not causestress to the horse, and mimics grazing in nature.

You may ask yourself what the benefits of feeding your horse with the Forager versus a hay net are; the Forager is much quicker and easier to fill than a traditional hay net, the Forager encourages feeding from a natural, lowered position, and horses are much less frustrated when eating from the Forager.



Click here to purchase.

Posted in General

Health Risk Hay

Written by Pferderevue Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why hay quality is decreasing and causing more coughing, colic, poisoning: horses are becoming ill because their hay is spoiled.

We address the question of why the quality of the most important basic fodder often leaves a lot to be desired.

Description: Gutes – im Sinne seiner botanischen Zusammensetzung und seines hygienischen Zustands – Heu ist das wichtigste Nahrungsmittel unserer Pferde. ©

Good - in the sense of its botanical composition and its hygienic condition - hay is the most important food of our horses. 

The case was hard to beat as a drama: ten "poisoned" horses in Andau gave left everyone guessing which evil criminal was capable of such cruel acts -and why. The horses had suffered from severe colic and been admitted to the University Hospital in Vienna. One horse did not survive the intestinal stasis and another had to be euthanized after the operation. The material damage was considerable. The subsequent criminal investigation led to the feed being analysed for toxic substances and the organs of the dead horses examined. No results. Finally, the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Security (AGES) found the culprit: the horses’ hay had been the cause, or, more correctly, the yeast and moulds found in the hay bales was at such high concentrations that the hay was unsuitable as a feed.


Although it is known that unhygienic hay can lead to serious health problems, it is rare to be shown how vitally important good quality basic fodder is. Colics associated with spoiled hay are not a rarity, as Univ.-Prof. Dr. René van den Hoven, Head of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, knows. And unfortunately, both producer, keeper and horse owner are too little concerned with the quality of the most important horse feed, as the thesis ("Knowledge and Awareness in the Quality of Feed") of Charlotte Deininger revealed (see PR 4/2014).


Hay Quality is Declining

One of the reasons for this lack of interest is certainly the large number of supplementary feeds that are released year after year. It is often forgotten that high-quality and hygienically perfect hay is the foundation of horse feeding. "It is really bad about the quality of the hay for horses. This is an up-to-date topic where you have to start urgently, because horses are suffering," says Dipl.-Ing. Univ.Doz. Dr. Karl Buchgraber, Head of the Institute for Crop Production and Cultivation at HBLFA Raumberg-Gumpenstein and lecturer at the University of Bozen-Bolzano and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. In his research, Dr. Buchgraber is constantly intensively studying hay as a feed for horses. And with this, the question why hay quality is getting worse and worse.

Description: © pholidito -

© pholidito -

One Problem, Many Answers

In hay, one should distinguish between two different quality criteria: the botanical and hygienic quality of the hay. The hygienic quality of the hay depends on the number of germs, bacteria and fungi. The primary cause of health problems are hygienic impurities of the hay. Through fungi and germs, the horses’ intestines are distended with gas as in the case of the dead horses of Andau. The botanical quality is the nutritional value of the hay. In other words: the variety of grasses and herbs, the minerals, the protein content and the nutrients.


On the question of whether and why the quality of the hay diminishes, opinions are divided—in the horse world and even more strongly in agriculture. All experts are in agreement that hay quality is increasingly an explosive issue. Only the causes and possible solutions seem to be not yet sufficiently clarified. Dr. Buchgraber sees a great problem in the ignorance of the stable owner. "Partly the quality of the hay is very bad at all yards without an agricultural background. People are only interested in the price, never the quality. "


Many riding stables no longer have an agricultural background. As a result, they do not produce hay themselves, but buy it from external suppliers. And as is true elsewhere in the free market economy, demand also determines the price: If the employer is too disinterested or too ignorant to question the hay quality, there is a risk that this will be compromised. Or that good quality is not appreciated and correspondingly honoured. Either way, a quality spiral is developing downwards. Raising Consciousness of the problem is therefore the first step on the way to better basic fodder.


Another reason for bad hay lies, according to the author, with the hay producers themselves. The correct production method is the decisive factor. Many farmers and growers either mow too early or too late, or even leave the cut grass to dry for a long time in the field. If the cut were too long on the field, it would pale, if it were too early, the hay would remain watery and damp, and immediately begin to rot when stored.


Another problem is the often too deep cut: in order to get more yield, some producers set the mower too deep. Thus, contaminants that are close to the ground can enter the hay and cause serious allergic reactions and respiratory problems in the horse. If soil is mixed with mown grass during harvest, drying is made very difficult. A cutting height of at least 5 to 7 cm must be observed.

Description: Heu Ernte Ballen Futter ©


Prof. van den Hoven, too, confers on the hay producers a certain responsibility for the poor developments in hay: "There is a lack of knowledge on how to produce good hay for horses." According to van den Hoven, farmers should be trained more Quality hay for horses is produced and they are especially clear that there is a big difference between feed for cattle and feed for horses.


Dr Peter Zechner, breeder and horse expert, is sure that the energy and protein content, and above all the sugar content for horses, is much too high for hay dried by equipment, which is now increasingly used in hay production. The same does not apply to ventilation hay.


Another important factor, which should not be ignored, is environmental influences. Summer 2013 was especially problematic for the production of the crop. Due to the long drought, farmers were able to mow only once, compared to two to three cuts in a normal year. This means, of course, a high loss of income and also hurts the quality of the hay.


Another problem that both René van den Hoven and Johann Krammel, chairman of the Heubörse association in the Viennese Forest, see very critically is the decline in cattle farmers as well as the prohibition of fertilizers. By both measures, meadows become less fertilized, which causes an advance of the Autumn Crocus. If the flowers or seeds of this plant get into the hay, this can have dramatic consequences for the horse: from bloody diarrhoea to death through respiratory paralysis, the consequences of a poisoning by Autumn Crocus are by no means easy to bear. If, on the other hand, farmers were to fertilize more or keep animals that fertilise the meadows, this poisonous plant could not spread further. "The Autumn Crocus tolerates no high nitrogen content through fertilizer," explains Krammel of the hay barn, which stands for high-quality hay in the Wienerwald.


It is also important to leave the hay for a few weeks after harvesting. "Hay and to a certain extent also straw during and after the harvest go through a 'sweat phase', which lasts six to eight weeks. During this time the harvested material must not be fed due to high microbial activity. The microbes produce heat through their metabolism in the haystack, which in moist hay can cause spontaneous combustion in the hay. Water emanates from the warming haystack, which must be able to evaporate. Hay which is very tightly packed or covered with plastic film cannot breathe and remains mainly moist in the centre- with the result that mould-forming agents form.


From this point of view, large bales are much less positive than small bales. This can be especially problematic with large round bales, "says Prof. Dr. Ellen Kienzle, who holds the Chair for Animal Nutrition and Dietetics at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. According to Dr. Peter Zechner in his book "Everything for a horse-holder", round bales should be stored in a standing position, since the chimney effect, which results from this, optimizes the post-sweating phase. "For this, the bales have to be stored on a double floor (eg on wooden pallets) [...]." In general hay should not be used with the highest possible pressure. The ideal solution would be a fixed chamber press, which leaves a soft core. "For square bales, which are also used, the moisture content of the crop must be extremely low," says Dr. Zechner.


Storage of the hay plays a decisive role in its quality. According to Krammel, the hay is frequently high quality, but is stored improperly by the end user. Even the best hay is able to absorb very high amounts of moisture very quickly and absorb moisture when wet. This is the reason for its hygienic quality, and it can no longer be used as feed. Kienzle: "In many places it is customary to store large bales outdoors. This is not recommended. Even if the storage space is covered, changing humidity and temperatures force moisture into the bales. This promotes the growth of moulds. In the open, many different sort of fungi such as the toxin-forming Fusarium find good conditions for growth.


The open-air storage of large bales without cover is catastrophic, in which the obviously corrupt outer layer is thrown away and the core is fed. Here it can easily happen that the microbial activity is highest in the core, which is not yet completely corrupted, whereas in the corrupted outer layer there are mainly dead fungi. But these are still allergenic. "


Good Hay, Bad Hay

According to the experts, the quality of hay depends on many factors: the location, the time of mowing, the environmental conditions, the fertilization, the correct drying and finally the correct storage. And mistakes can happen everywhere or the quality can be negatively affected by negligence. On the question of how good hay can be recognised, all experts are in agreement: optically and olfactically it should be appealing. A layman without special expertise could quickly recognize the quality of the hay. It is said to have a fresh green tint, to smell of hay, not of mould. When touching it should feel rough and dry. And if you throw it into the air, it should not drop dust. If the colour of the hay has faded, this indicates too long dried or often wet hay. If it is brown or black, the temperature in the dry phase was too high. In both cases, the hay is lacking in nutrients and it can even lead to liver and brain damage, laminitis and asthma. If the hay also has a musty smell, this indicates a mould infection and it should not be fed. The result would be severe health problems. If the hay feels slightly moist or clammy, this indicates a too high moisture content. This can be caused by a too short sweating phase of the hay or by non-appropriate storage. Even in this case the hay should not be fed.

Description: Heu aus dem ersten Schnitt hat einen höheren Rohfasergehalt und wird von Pferden bevorzugt. Doch auch ein Zuviel an Rohfaser ist nicht gut. © Elke Hellmich

Hay from the first cut has a higher crude fibre content and is preferred by horses. But too much raw fibre is not good. Woody, bulky hay can also promote the development of laminitis in addition to colic maturity, increased sensitivity to diarrhoea and drought.
© Elke Hellmich

If you want to be a conscientious horse owner, do not only rely on your own senses, but err on the side of caution. Johann Krammel recommends that you carry out a moisture measurement in the bale. According to Dr. Buchgraber, high-quality hay should not have more than 14% moisture content after harvesting (after drying on the field), otherwise it would quickly mould. Probably the safest method for determining the hay quality is analysis in a feed laboratory. There the hay is examined for bacteria and fungi. "If one suspects that the hay is spoiled, test it immediately!," says veterinarian Dr. Bernadette Linsbichler. Until the result of such an investigation is known, however, about two weeks pass - as an immediate measure it is thus unsuitable. In the case of suspicion, therefore, do not feed the bale.

Description: Heu aus dem (späten) zweiten Schnitt ist aromatischer und feiner, sein Energiegehalt ist höher. © Elke Hellmich

Heu aus dem (späten) zweiten Schnitt ist aromatischer und feiner, sein Energiegehalt ist höher. 
© Elke Hellmich


Health Risk

Poor hay quality can cause a variety of acute and chronic diseases in horses. To portray the horse as particularly susceptible or sensitive is fundamentally wrong, emphasizes Buchgraber. "A horse ingests up to ten billion spores per day. In the long term no one would remain healthy with this strain of microorganisms. "


An increasingly serious problem are respiratory diseases such as various forms of bronchitis and, in the worst case, Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO). This disease is an allergic reaction which can be triggered by fungal spores in the hay and is maintained by dust. Small amounts of allergens are sufficient to keep the disease going. RAO manifests itself in a chronic cough, which can lead to pneumonia in the worst case. "I have more RAO patients every year - and this is very much linked to lack of hygiene and poor quality of hay," says Dr. Linsbichler.


Serious problems can also arise in ​​the digestive tract: gastric ulcers, weight loss and throat problems or severe Colics can be caused by a lack of hay quality and, in the worst case, by toxins contained in hay, even fatal. Professor van den Hoven points out that there are other serious chronic diseases that may be associated with poor quality of hay: "Bone problems and calcifications of the aortae by hay contaminated with gold beetles do not occur frequently, but we have had quite a few cases."


Of course, the quality of the hay can also be basically in order, but the fodder contains poisonous plants like the Autumn Crocus. Although most horses generally avoid the bad tasting plant, there are instances where horses still eat the poisonous plant. According to van den Hoven, this leads to poisoning and in some cases the death of the animal.


Improperly produced hay also contains much fewer nutrients than high-quality hay. This can lead to a lack of nutrients in horses, and the animals subsequently lose weight. Since horses are often fed with feed and minerals, the nutrient deficiency of hay is not noticed at all. However, this does not alter the fact that the poor quality of the hay can only lead to chronic diseases only years later. Both Dr. Linsbichler and Prof. van den Hoven agree that in some cases horses can live well with inferior hay for years without developing diseases. This is comparable to people who are poorly nourished for years and remain healthy during that time. But it always depends on the individual physical condition - and usually bad nutrition has its revenge in old age and this is also true in the horse. How many horses are treated annually due to feeding-related diseases is difficult to assess, because the precise causes of the disease remain unclear to some extent. Prof. van den Hoven confirms what was already stated by Prof. Helmut Meyer in the 1970s in his standard work on horse feeding: the poor hygienic quality of the hay is a common but not the only cause of colic.

Description: Schimmeliges Heu wie dieses darf auf keinen Fall mehr verfüttert werden! © Lothar Lenz

Schimmeliges Heu wie dieses darf auf keinen Fall mehr verfüttert werden! 
© Lothar Lenz



"Awareness must be heightened first," says Buchgraber. For farmers, for horse-owners, for liveries. As a single horse owner in a large riding stables, it often seems that you are at the mercy of the yard management in terms of feeding. Apart from the desired amount of hay, there is not much you can dictate there. Nevertheless, as a horse owner, you should not accept anything but make yourself acquainted with their practices and check the feed regularly. Major problems can also be detected without laboratory analysis. Farmers, according to Buchgraber, are more aware of the responsibility they bear in the production of hay. "We have just carried out an investigation: Most farmers are very likely to believe that they produce good quality," says Buchgraber.


Farmers should check their work, possibly even have the hay checked by a feed merchant. But the biggest responsibility still lies with the yard owners. At the end of the day it is their decision from whom they obtain their hay. "At the time of the delivery, the quality should be checked at random.  By new deliveries there should  still be enough old hay or straw that it is possible to reject a delivery without the risk of being left with no hay or straw until a replacement delivery arrives, "advises Ellen Kienzle. And last but not least, the price is also a reference to quality: he who buys cheap, must be aware that good quality has its price, which should be paid for fairly. Once the awareness of the importance of good feed is raised, then additional costs can also be better accepted by horse owners. Really cheap is not cheap anyway—considering the numerous possible follow-up costs. The principle for horses is the same as for humans: you are what you eat.



Posted in General

Steaming or Soaking Hay?

Written by U. Wyss & N. Pradervand Agroscope, Instiute of Livestock Sciences INT, Posieux Thursday, October 27, 2016


Sensitive horses are already allergic to a small amount of dust particles and mould in the hay (Meyer and Coenen 2014). Special hay steaming devices or watering of the hay are the remedies. By soaking or dampening hay, the volatile dust particles are wetted and the inhalation of dust is reduced. To what extent the microbiological quality can be improved with steaming or soaking and the ingredients can be influenced, was examined in two different hay samples.



Two different hay samples were used for this experiment. For steaming, the apparatus Haygain HG 1000 (Propress Equine Ltd, Hungerford, UK) was used. After heating, the feed was steamed for 50 minutes. From the starting material, immediately after steaming, and after the steamed hay was stored for three days, samples were taken and analyses carried out. In addition, hay was soaked from the same raw material. The hay was soaked for 5 minutes, 1 hour, 6 hours and 24 hours. In addition, a further sample was taken in the hay soaked for five minutes three days later. The microbiological quality (aerobic mesophilic bacteria, mould, fungi, yeasts) as well as the dry substance (TS) contents and the ingredients were investigated in the samples using the near infrared light (NIRS) method.



By steaming, the TS content of the hay dropped from an average of 89 to 80%. The TS content of the hay decreased much more strongly by watering. Depending on the duration of the irrigation, the TS values ​​were still between 32 and 17%. The crude nutrient contents of the two yeast samples prior to the treatments are shown in Table 1.

By steaming, the sedimentation of aerobic mesophilic bacteria, moulds and yeasts decreased (Figs. 1 to 3). The values ​​did not increase even during the sampling period three days after steaming. It looked different in soaking. Here the germ contents did not decrease significantly with a watering of 5 minutes. The germ contents, especially the yeasts, increased sharply with increasing duration of soaking. In the watered hay samples, in which the germ contents were determined only after three days, the feed was warm during sampling. These samples showed very high germ contents and were considered to be highly spoiled.

Steaming had little effect on the ingredients, especially the sugar content (Figure 4). On the other hand, the sugar content decreased as a result of the soaking. On the one hand, this is due to the washout and, on the other hand, to the activity of the yeasts, which have reduced a portion of the sugar.

The results of this study coincide with the results obtained from Moore-Colyer et al. (2016).

Regarding the two mycotoxins zearalenone and deoxynivalenol, the two feeds had very low values ​​before the treatment. They were clearly below the tolerated limit concentrations (DLG 2000). It should be noted that these mycotoxins are heat-stable and are not degraded by steaming, which has been confirmed by additional analyses.



By steaming, the bacteria content can be reduced. As a result of soaking, the bacteria content increases on the one hand and the sugar content decreases on the other. Long soaked hay is no longer suitable for feeding.



DLG 2000. Avoid mycotoxins instead of fighting them. DLG Communications 8/2000.

Meyer H. and Coenen M., 2014. Horse feeding. Enke Verlag, Stuttgart, 332 pages.

Moore-Colyer M.J.S, Tayler J.L.E. And James R., 2016. The Effect of Steaming and Soaking on the Respirable Particle, Bacteria, Mold, and Nutrient Content in Hay for Horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 39, 62-68.


TABLE 1 Dry Substance (TS) and content of the two hay samples before the treatments

Sample 1 2 TS% 89.9 88.2 Crude ash g / kg TS 68 71 Crude protein g / kg TS 63 112 Crude fiber g / kg TS 357 295 Sugar g / kg TS 56 98 VEP MJ / kg TS 8.1 9.3

VEP: Digestible energy horse


Description: Aerobe mesophile Bakterien © Agroscope

Aerobic Mesophile Bacteria in hay samples  (colony-forming units per gramme) 
© Agroscope

Steaming is red after one hour and after 72 hours; Soaking is blue after 5 mins, 1 hour, 6 hours, 24 and 72 hours


Description: Schimmelpilze © Agroscope

Fungi in hay samples  (colony-forming units per gramme) 
© Agroscope

Steaming is red after one hour and after 72 hours; Soaking is blue after 5 mins, 1 hour, 6 hours, 24 and 72 hours



Description: Hefen in den Heuproben © Agroscope

Yeast in hay samples  (colony-forming units per gramme) 
© Agroscope

Steaming is red after one hour and after 72 hours; Soaking is blue after 5 mins, 1 hour, 6 hours, 24 and 72 hours



Description: Zuckergehalte © Agroscope

Water Soluble Carbohydrates in hay samples (g/kg dry matter) 
© Agroscope


If the aim of the exercise is to reduces sugars in the hay, then soaking is the most effective method. However, it is important to not lose sight of the microbial pollution this causes. The drastic increase in fungi and yeast over increasing soaking time cancels out the positive aspect and poses a health risk which should not be underestimated. If the aim is primarily to reduce respirable particles and improve hay quality, then horse owners who want to be on the safe side should steam their hay.


Statistics translated (Notes by JF/BJ)

Here are some figures (provisional interpretations from graphs):

  • Soaking: Bacterial load up 100x (from just under 100 million to over 10 billion)
  • Steaming: Bacterial load reduced by over 99% (from just under 100 million to as low as 50 thousand)
  • Soaking: Fungi increased by around 50%
  • Steaming: reduced by over 99.9%
  • Soaking: yeast 10,000 times higher (1 million % more)
  • Steaming: yeast down 99%
  • Soaking: Water Soluble Carbohydrate retention—leaches out over time to almost zero
  • Steaming: 10-20% reduction
  • Soaking: dry matter reduction from 89% down to between 32 and 17%
  • Steaming: from 89% to 80%

All of the above are VERY compelling arguments from independent scientists to promote steaming over soaking and we believe this will prove absolutely invaluable in the future.


This study was carried out by Agroscope, Institute of Livestock Sciences INT, Posieux, Switzerland (an arm of the Swiss government).

Posted in General

Treating IAD—Inflammatory Airway Disease in Horses

Written by Veterinary Surgeon Hugh Dillon Wednesday, October 12, 2016

By the time a horse crosses the finish line in a five furlong race, has completed a Grand Prix show jumping round, or gone one sixth of the way around a 3 star cross country course, he will have somewhere around 1,800 litres of air in and out of the lungs. Roughly this equates to moving two five gallon buckets of air into and out of the lungs every second.

These examples underline the importance of the respiratory system. The harder a horse works, the more oxygen it needs and the more air it must move into & out of the lungs. In fact these are so tightly coupled, that if a horse doubles it’s speed, it will need twice the amount of air moved into & out of the lungs.

The horses’ respiratory system, is the second most common cause of depleted performance in competition, second only to lameness. It clearly deserves our attention & the advancements being made in treating respiratory issues in horses. For most Veterinarians, the following conversation is a regular occurrence, but Hugh Dillon, an Irish Veterinarian has emphasized the importance of moving with the times & advancements in nebulisation technology to help horses with IAD, live happy healthy & competitive lives.


Why does your horse get out of puff when galloping and blow very hard after exercise?

Whether it’s on the hunting field or racecourse, horses that get short of breath will not perform well. As well as the obvious causes such as unfitness or respiratory infection, there is another cause which is an allergic condition called Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD). This is very common especially in stabled horses.

Owners see various symptoms including an occasional cough, mild nasal discharge, poor exercise performance & delayed recovery after exercise. Otherwise the horses are very well and there is usually no improvement with antibiotics. The condition can range in severity from very mild (maybe losing three lengths in a race) to very severe (pulling up in distress).


How can I detect if my horse has IAD?

It can be difficult to diagnose in mild cases. Veterinarians will use a combination of horses history, clinical signs & and endoscopy examination of the windpipe after exercise and a lung wash. It’s important to distinguish the condition from bacterial or viral infection.

Horses that are otherwise well but have a low grade occasional cough, increased breathing rate in the stable, mild nasal discharge & get tired at exercise too quickly should be investigated for IAD. Trainers sometimes mistake IAD for a choker or other laryngeal problems. Some horses with IAD will also be more prone to bleeding at exercise.


What’s the best way to treat IAD?

No two cases are the same and all horses will respond differently to treatment. It is worthwhile for owners/trainers to work closely with you their veterinarian and to persevere until the right therapy is found. Firstly the owner should provide as much fresh air as possible and we often advise to leave the horse turned out in the pasture 24/7. Otherwise, the stable & barn must be kept a dust free as possible and to either soak or steam hay. Feed hay from the ground & not from a hay net or wall mounted hayrack. The stable should be kept really clean, removing droppings, urine spoiled bedding, old feed & hay daily. The ventilation must be excellent with no hay or straw stored nearby. In addition to management, there are many drugs, herbal & traditional remedies that have been used for years with varying success. Veterinarian advice re drugs to counteract the symptoms of the disease and these can be used in combination with the more traditional therapies such as garlic & honey for example, is vital to successful treatment.


Have there been any recent advances in therapy in the condition?

For many years, work has been done on developing an efficient nebuliser which is a face mask that can deliver drug therapy directly to the lungs. Treatment this way is much more effective and requires smaller dose administration of medications such as cortisone.

The earlier models have been slightly cumbersome, fragile & slow to deliver medication. The most recent nebulisers are very flexible, light, robust easy & efficient to use. One such system has been developed by an Irish company Nortev, is called Flexineb.

It’s designed to aerosolise a wide range of drugs including corticosteroids, eucalyptus oil, bronchodilators, saline and if needed antibiotics. As all horses are different, it is important to draw up the most suitable protocol for the animal, your client & to vary treatment if needed. Flexineb has been developed to deliver optimum particle size to the lungs, scintigraphy studies show that 71% of the nebulised drug is delivered to the lower airways, with the remaining 29% into the upper airway & trachea.

Personally I find this more modern nebuliser easier to use than its predecessors. It involves about 5 to 10 minutes twice a day for application. The mask is placed comfortably above the horse’s nostrils & the medication is inhaled in each breath taken by the horse and is drawn right down to where the oxygen is transferred to the bloodstream (the 71% of drug delivered to the lower respiratory system). The condition IAD causes inflammation in this area, and the exchange of oxygen is hampered. With the use of nebulisers and face masks the required medication is very effectively delivered to where it is needed. Thus we can use very accurate and high doses of a specific medication without burdening the rest of the body with such doses. The medicine hits the spot without having to pass through all organs of the body.

The profession welcomes this new Irish designed & manufactured product and hopes its increased use will lead to better outcomes in the ongoing treatment of IAD.


Hugh Dillon is an esteemed partner in one of Irelands main Equine Hospitals, Troytown Greyabbey, in the heart of The Curragh, Co Kildare. 

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