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Winter Management

Bringing your horse in for Winter - What should you consider?

Annie's Insight:

Horses have evolved to be free roaming grazing animals. Given the option to live this way they will spend about three quarters of their time with their heads down and will be continually on the move, albeit slowly, as they search for the tastiest grass. Because of this evolutionary fact, the respiratory system of the horse is relatively inefficient at clearing pathogens and irritants away. As particles simply “drain” out under gravity with the head down, nature has not concentrated so much on the mucus clearing mechanism of fine hairs lining the airway that are enjoyed by other species.

KBIS in-house vet Dr Annie Ashman MA Vet MB MRCVS

The recent change in weather has reminded us autumn is here and winter routines will be commencing soon if they haven’t already! Of course, we want to keep our horses turned out as much as possible but as daylight hours decrease, grazing depletes, the ground becomes poached and gateways muddy, horses will inevitably spend more time in their stables.

It is important to make sure the stable environment is as natural as possible to mimic being outside in the fresh air grazing. This means making sure they have adequate access to long stemmed forage whilst ensuring the air quality is clean; minimising exposure to respirable dust from forage and bedding. 

Horses are trickle feeders, their health and well-being is dependent on an almost constant access to forage so making sure stabled horses have access to good quality hay or haylage is paramount to avoid digestive and metabolic upsets.

Ventilation is key and should result in 5 changes of air per hour, all stable designs are different but make sure all your air vents are clear, windows are open and have a look to see if there are any adaptations you can make to the design to improve air flow.

Keeping the stable environment clean isn’t just a case of mucking out, cobwebs harbour bacteria and trap dust so should be removed (a hoover with a long reach works well to get up into the rafters!), surfaces such as window ledges and door frames should be wiped down and ideally disinfected. Water and feed buckets/troughs should also be kept clean.

The main sources of respirable dust are from conserved forage (hay and haylage) as well as bedding of various levels depending on type.

Becky James, Haygain

Stable dust is comprised of many particles; however, it is the respirable dust (particles less than 5m in size) that cause the most significant problems. Firstly, when they are this small, they hang around in the air for a long time; spores of 5 µm fall 0.1 cm per second. In addition, again due to their size they have a 50% chance of being inhaled deep inside the lungs and cause airway inflammation and ultimately respiratory disorders including Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD) and Severe Equine Asthma (SEA) also known as COPD, broken wind or heaves.

The main sources of respirable dust are from conserved forage (hay and haylage) as well as bedding of various levels depending on type. Choosing low-dust options such as rubber matting and large flake, dust-extracted shavings or paper will create less dust in the stable than straw.

Dry hay can generate 932,090 Airborne Respirable Dust (ARD) particles per litre of air, the average horse has a mean tidal volume of 5 litres so a horse could be inhaling 4.6 million ARD particles in every breath while their nose is in the hay! Although haylage is lower in ARD than dry hay, it can still contain 4500- 8800 ARD per litre of air.

The traditional treatment of soaking to reduce the dust, while it does make the dust less airborne, is counter-productive on several levels. Soaking leaches nutrients, increases bacteria, produces a polluting post-soak liquor, uses vast amounts of water and is messy and laborious.                  

To really minimize exposure to the dust from forage, both and hay and haylage can be steamed at high temperatures. Haygain hay steamers are scientifically proven to reduce respirable dust by up to 99%, kill bacteria, mould and fungal spores using a unique and patented method.

Becky James, Haygain

As a valued KBIS customer you can now receive 5% off all Haygain Hay Steamer models as well as Forage Slow Feeders.

For more information on our Policy Holder Benefits click here.

KBIS are one of the largest independent horse insurance providers, offering all types of insurance for the equestrian. Our insurance products include horsebox and trailer, breakdown, personal accident, liability, property and horse - including a wide variety of veterinary fee options. You can get a horse insurance quote online or call 0345 230 2323.  


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