Airway disease is a well-known cause of poor performance in athletic horses, and although many owners and trainers attempt to minimize the dispersion and inhalation of airborne particles, lots equine athletes still develop airway disease. According to a recent study, a new technique called "particle mapping" could help identify when and where harmful airborne particles are likely to remain suspended and help owners and trainers devise ways to minimize equine (and human) exposures to these particles.

Particles less than 10 microns in diameter have the potential to reach the horse’s lower airways (lungs and bronchi) and are associated with indices of airway inflammation. Particles this size are often found in stables and typically originate from hay, bedding, footing or flooring materials, road dust, and tractor or vehicle emissions.

"Because these particles are smaller than what can be viewed with the naked eye, it’s therefore easy to think that because you don’t see a cloud of dust, the particles aren’t there," said lead author Melissa Millerick-May, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. "It’s these small particles that you don’t see that reach the lower airways and potentially cause irritation/inflammation."

To increase owners’ understanding of how barn design and temporal and seasonal factors impact air quality, Millerick-May used commercially available real-time particle monitors in three architecturally different barns at various tim