Getting a Second Wind: Helping Equine Athletes Breathe

Are breathing issues slowing your horse down? Here are some surgical and management options that might help.

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Getting A Second Wind: Helping Equine Athletes Breathe
Depending on how a horse's nose is built, nasal strips can help open the airway during exercise. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Are breathing issues slowing your horse down? Here are some surgical and management options that might help

It matters not how sound of foot and mind your barrel racer, show jumper, or trail horse is. If oxygen can’t pass through his nostrils and flow down his airways unimpeded, he’s not going to be able to turn those barrels, clear those fences, or handle a long-distance ride.  

While some breathing problems are temporary and can be corrected easily with the proper medication regimen, others might cause lifelong breathing difficulties and compromise the horse’s athleticism to the point that he can no longer perform.  

The good news is that management techniques and/or surgery can mitigate some of these problems, even at the highest competitive levels. For example, a Thoroughbred racehorse named Bolo, that ran in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, underwent surgery for a breathing problem last year. After seven months of recovery, he returned to win the $200,000 Arcadia Stakes at Santa Anita, in Arcadia, California, in February 2017

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Written by:

Tracy Gantz is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She is the Southern California correspondent for The Blood-Horse and a regular contributor to Paint Horse Journal, Paint Racing News, and Appaloosa Journal.

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