Older Horse

For those of us privileged enough to care for senior horses, we know that it is an honor to show them through their golden years. We provide them the highest quality forage, the best grain and concentrates, and the utmost care. But have you thought about the quality of the air that they are breathing?

While every horse needs quality air to breathe, senior horses are particularly at risk for respiratory diseases. Mary Rose Paradis DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM reported in her presentation at the 2013 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention that respiratory problems were the third most common cause for referral for senior horses to the equine hospital at which she works.

For many senior horses, consistent turnout is key. Allowing them access to fresh air is the best things for respiratory health. However, not all horses can live outside all the time.

When your horse is inside the barn, removing dust (well, as much as possible!) from the horse’s stall and feed is imperative. Many beddings, such as straw and sawdust, are quite dusty so it may behoove you to look for alternatives. It is also important that you remove your horse from the stall when you clean it, as cleaning stirs up dust and other harmful chemicals such as ammonia.

Respiratory distress can also be exacerbated by prolonged ammonia exposure, as it irritates the lungs and respiratory tract. To combat this compound, consider a generous portion of a stall refresher product, which are designed to remove a large amount of ammonia from your horse’s stall.

Increased ventilation will also help to improve your horse’s respiratory health. No matter the season, consider providing more than adequate ventilation when you have a senior horse in the barn. It doesn’t take much to irritate a horse’s delicate respiratory system.

If your horse’s respiratory distress continues to progress, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Maintaining respiratory health in the senior horse requires constant monitoring on the part of the owner, but the results are more than worth it: a horse that can breathe easy.