The horse’s respiratory system is an incredible piece of engineering, and the way it functions is fascinating to me. Not only is it an essential part of keeping horses alive, a properly functioning respiratory system is key to keeping equine athletes performing at the top of their game. Unfortunately, as we all know, equine respiratory systems often don’t function quite as we’d like.

If possible, allow senior horses with heaves 24-hour pasture access and reduce the amount of hay in their diets. Both will help reduce the amount of dust the horse is exposed to.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Respiratory conditions aren’t unique to senior horses, but many aging horses seem to suffer from such ailments. Dr. Mary Rose Paradis (DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM) reported during a presentation at last year’s American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention that respiratory problems were the third most common presenting complaint for senior horses presented to a referral hospital. And one of the most common respiratory diseases found in aging horses is heaves (or, technically, recurrent airway obstruction or RAO).

“Although heaves is not restricted to