Helping Treat Equine Eye Conditions with the Guardian Mask

Written by Guardian Mask Wednesday, August 9, 2017

For 25 years, Guardian Mask has been manufacturing the ultimate solution to help horses suffering with headshaking and eye conditions such as uveitis (ERU or moon blindness), glaucoma, eye cancer, cataracts, and eye injuries. Their unique patented 95% Sunshades are specifically designed to help aid in the treatment, healing, and prevention of these major eye conditions and dieases. The Guardian Mask offers extended life and productivity to the horses that have suffered these conditions, and they stress in numerous cases, without the additional use of medications or surgeries. The Guardian Mask is designed to be worn year-round during daylight hours, but it can also be worn at night.

What is Uveitis?

Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU) or "moon blindness" is an inflammation of the inside of the eye. It is associated in some cases withleptospira bacteria, it also has an immune-mediated component. Uveitis can be sub clinical where no outward signs are seen until the horse turns up blind in one or both eyes.  Uveitis can be very painful, and can effect one or both eyes, usually in time both eyes are affected. Uveitis isn't contagious and studies have shown that the condition, and blindness, does seem to be more prominent  in Appaloosas, and Paints, compared to other breeds, the list of high risk breeds however, is sadly growing over time. Changing weather and environments are also a large factor in increasing conditions.



ERU is usually treated with topical corticosteroids (after your DVM has determined there are no corneal ulcers), and topical antibiotics. Often, Banamine is used systemically to help with the inflammation.   

Aspirin therapy is used in some cases between flare-ups to decrease the progression of the disease. Uveitis usually does progress over time often to blindness and even then can still flare up, and be painful for the horse. It is recommended to have your horse tested.  

Aside from aspirin therapy, (ask your DVM and the veterinary ophthalmologist) there is little that can be done to prevent ERU from reoccurring. Recurrent Uveitis, a leading cause of blindness in horses, often developing as a sequel to systemic leptospirosis.   

Bute, Banamine and atropine have been used in the profession for many years and is currently being used and becoming known that these are only producing some, temporary relief at best. 

Alternative therapies such as the use of  a Guardian Mask with 95% Sunshades™ have proven to help alleviate the symptoms associated with horses suffering Uveitis. The special patented 95% Sunshades help occlude harmful UV rays that cause the irritation and weeping associated with this disease. The recommended use is in all daylight hours, year round. Not just during flare ups, it is important to continue protection year round. 

There are also special feed supplements available. When used in conjunction with mask protection, horse owners have experienced increased positive results to help combat and control uveitis. 


Additional Information

The bacterial organism leptospira is associated with some cases of recurrent equine uveitis (aka moon blindness). Blood tests, cultures, etc., can be done however the cause of ERU is not always identifiable. There is also an immune-mediated component to the disease.  

Leptospira can cause of abortion in mares, and despite extensive clinical research, the etiology of equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) is still unknown.  

Equine recurrent uveitis, is an important ocular disease and the most common cause of blindness in horses and mules world wide.


Ocular Emergencies

Ocular emergencies include any condition which threatens the integrity of the globe or vision. Etiologies include trauma, burns, infections, uveitis, corneal ulceration, optic neuritis, central blindness, and the uncommon cases of equine glaucoma, early cataracts, cancer, and headshaking.   

An accurate diagnosis is critical for appropriate treatment for these problems. The prognosis may still be poor or grave with appropriate diagnosis; however, aggressive treatment is the only chance these eyes have to not only save their vision, but more so to help save their lives.   

Frequent reevaluations are also an important part of treating emergencies because additional problems can become evident over time which will also need treatment. Most ocular and orbital injuries or acute ocular inflammation in horses result in similar signs of adnexal swelling.


In cases of uveitis there will be a blue or white cloudiness and often a light or heavy discharge from the eye.  Horses may also display behavioral stress and try to rub their eyes against objects to try to relieve the pain. Horses have even been observed dunking their heads in water sources to also try to alleviate the pain. Horses can also continually seek shade. Sometimes symptoms are only visible in one eye, or both eyes. 


What are Equine Cataracts?

Cataracts are described as cloudy eyes or eyes that have a white film over the lens or a thick opacity of the lens. Cataracts can impair vision as well as blind a horse depending on the severity and it can occur in one or both eyes. 



The cause can be a variety of factors including genetic inheritance however this is not often the most common cause. The most common breeds of horses to have congenital cataracts are Appaloosa's and Arabians. All horses however, are susceptible to developing cataracts at any stage of life. Cataracts are generally caused by eye injuries and or eye diseases such as Uveitis and not limited to any particular age group however it is known to most commonly occur with either young foals or much older horses, older horses being the more common of the two age groups.

It is best to try and consider prevention rather than waiting until something "crops up" or waiting until your horse's eyes are in poor to bad condition. 



Cataracts can be surgically removed however in older horses the chances of success are considerably low at 50% and even after a surgical removal there is a high degree of complications that can arise such as ongoing inflammation, ulcerations and cloudiness which could lead to shrinking of the eye and even blindness. 

Foals born with or developing cataracts under six months old are considered to have this affliction as a congenital disease. Most veterinarians recommend surgical removal of the lens if the foal is healthy as the foals can usually tolerate aggressive treatments.

Of course any horse that has had a cataract removal is no longer considered  a "sound" horse even if the horse can still function and get about in a normal fashion. A horse that has not had surgical removal of the lens can still also be functional with the aid of alternative therapy.  

The Original Multi-Purpose Guardian Mask  can not only help slow down the process, but the mask can also help prevent cataracts as the disease is known to be linked to Uveitis and as we have discovered, the best known treatment for uveitis is in fact the Guardian Mask with 95% sunshades for ultimate protection against the harmful UV rays of the sun.

It is always recommended to have a complete ophthalmic examination as well as a general health examination to determine the condition of a horse with any type of eye conditions, as some diseases tend to also effect other regions of the horses anatomy.  

What are Some Other Equine Eye Injuries?

There are many ways in which a horse can injure his eye or eyes. Horses can always find a way and other horses can sometimes be the culprits. One can never predict when a horse may become injured but when it happens, quick action and treatment may save your horses eyes.


Equine Eye Injury Examples

  • A kick or bite from another horse
  • Sharp objects in or around a horses stall or pasture
  • Fighting with other horses that might cause trauma to an eye or eyes
  • Accidental head bumping into other objects
  • Splinters from wood or trees including dead tree limbs
  • Tack or loose equipment that might be laying around the barn, stall or pasture
  • Rubbing against objects such as stalls or fences
  • Trailer injuries caused by a horse becoming excited or nervous
  • Foreign objects from flying debris such as leaf particles, dust, or dirt
  • Insect stings
  • Human inflicted trauma



There are hundreds of ways a horse can manage an injury but once an injury has been sustained, the first thing that is recommended is to assess the situation. If there is bleeding and or visible cuts, veterinary treatment is recommended. If it appears that your horse has a foreign object lodged in the eye, you could try gently rinsing to see if you can remove the object and determine if there is any damage. If you find small particles or objects in the eye you can try using a clean handkerchief corner to remove the object. Sometimes clean cotton-tipped applicators can help. Eye washes can also be helpful to clean out any blood from a torn eye lid or eye if you can manage to keep the horse calm enough. Any injury to a horse can be very traumatic, always use caution when approaching an injured horse.

If your horse has sustained a traumatic injury, your veterinarian may suggest treatment or if there is sutures, there may also be medications and follow-up treatment that is required. If you wish to help protect your horses eyes while receiving treatment we recommend using a Guardian Mask. The Guardian Mask will help keep dust, debris and insects out of the eye area so it may help promote healing. It will also help keep the harmful UV rays of the sun from causing additional pain to your horse. The unique design of the mask has a raised set of "eyes" that are made of sturdy heavy duty materials and keep the eye covers away from the eyes. This helps prevent rubbing which could cause further damage to your horse's eye.

You may also consider using Guardian Masks for prevention. The Guardian Mask products are excellent in helping keep the eyes protected not just against the harmful UV rays of the sun but also excellent in protecting against harsh winds and the debris that might follow.

Always remember to seek the advice of your veterinarian in any case to help determine what is best for your horse. A horse's eyes are key to his health and they are not only expressive but help you read how your horse feels. All creatures have a natural ability to read others by searching their eyes, it is true that the eyes bring the world in, and it is also true that the inner creature is revealed through their eyes. Protecting them is as important as the horse's overall health.


Hi Sid!

This letter has been a long time coming in your direction. I first spoke to you 4 years ago. I have an Anglo Arab mare that had been diagnosed with uveitis. However, I am a very skeptical person I needed to make sure that I believed in your product before I sent a testimonial. Here is a brief rundown of what happened with my mare Mercedes.

I remember this day so vividly my mare’s eye was swollen and running and it looked quite painful. I stood in the barn with my mare and awaited the vet’s arrival.  He diagnosed her with uveitis and left me with a hand full of medications and directions. I was still optimistic about my mare condition and her treatment.

Two weeks later… I stood in the barn again, waiting for the vet’s arrival…  this time for the other eye. Again, more instructions, medications and now my spirits just a little less optimistic. (I was boarding my horse and the time over 30 minutes from home and had to travel to medicate her 4 times a day!)

My mare recovered quickly this time. One month later, again, standing in the barn with my mare, both eyes swollen almost closed, and running, and waiting for the vet to arrive. The vet arrived and during the examination we discovered both eyes so badly affected they were full of pools of blood!

Again, the vet leaves, I have my hands full of medications and by now I am very familiar with the treatment schedule! Now, I am very worried about my mare, I am in a daze I am so tired from driving to treat her. I remember sitting on the floor of my mare’s stall and sobbing!!! 

The first year of continuous treatment came and went.  Into the second year of treatment, my life started to revolve around my mare’s treatment. I quit my job and found one closer to the barn to make sure I got 4 treatments a day into her eyes. I left home and rented an apartment in the country to shorten my drive time.  I no sooner got one eye under control and the other eye would need treatment again. I fought with ulcers on her eyes from the steroid medications. Ulcers in her stomach from pain management medications. The final straw was when my mare had one of her eyes go completely covered with a white “fungus” type problem!!! From get this… the fungus was caused by the medications to treat the uveitis! Again the vet came out to try and help me with my mare. The vet care for my mare was fantastic however; this was a pretty severe case. My mare at this point had been on complete stall rest with no light for 2 months (give or take a day) my mare looked terrible. She had no spirit left in her! She had lost so much weight I barely recognized her and I was now considering a humane end to this so called life she was living! The vet and I discussed our options for Mercedes.

I went home in complete despair. I cried the whole car ride home. I arrived home and told my boyfriend about what kind of a decision I was faced with.  I went and sat down and found myself feeling completely helpless. I could for the first time do nothing to help my mare, I was at the end of watching her suffer, and I was exhausted physically and mentally and financially drained!

About an hour later my boyfriend arrived with a print out from the computer. It was your website. He urged me to call and order and just give it one last shot. I reached you on the other end of the line Sid! My first bit of hope in months! You understood! I quickly ordered the mask and waited. You sent me the mask on a rush order and I had it within 2 days! When the mask arrived in the mail I rushed out to the barn to put it on her. Okay at first I thought she looked kind of funny but who cares if it helps.


4 Years Later...

Mercedes now lives at home on my farm.  She is completely blind in one eye and can see I think maybe “shadows” in the other eye. (I wish I had found your mask months earlier she would probably still have her vision). She is so happy; she has not had any problems with her eyes in over 2 years!  I have 3 of your masks so I can rotate to get them washed.  She wears her mask 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  In fact your masks are so well made that I still have her original mask and it is in great shape!

It has been so long since I have thought of her eye condition that I had to look up how to spell uveitis again!

Sid, my sincerest thank you for all you have done for Mercedes and me. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on many occasions by phone, for taking the time to find a “treatment” for these wonderful animals that suffer from moonblindness, and for raising awareness with horse owners and vets throughout North America.

Trail riding season is starting again here in Ontario and thanks to you, Mercedes and I will enjoy the sunshine again for another summer together.

I do not hesitate to tell anyone about your product.  My testimonial… the smile on my face every time I open the barn doors in the morning and am greeted by the whinny of my mare.

Thank you…
Yours truly,

Andrea Patterson
Heckston, Ontario

To read more testimonials like Andrea's, click here.

Call 1 (866) 284-6773 to order!

Data gathered from various sources including horse owners, veterinarians, and Guardian Mask.

Click here to go to their website for more information.

Always remember to seek the advice of your veterinarian before treatment.

Posted in General

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