TIME - TESTED HEAVES MANAGEMENT
Air levels of irritants were significantly higher in the barns with straw and hay compared to those where wood shavings and haylage were used.
A new study from the Netherlands suggests that horses with heaves benefit more from old-fashioned management measures, such as the use of low-dust bedding and feed, than from high-tech interventions like air-ionizing devices.
Heaves, also known as recurrent airway obstruction or equine asthma, is a chronic inflammatory lung disease triggered by dust, mold, pollens and other airborne particles normally found in barns. Horses with heaves have difficulty exhaling and may cough frequently, making exercise difficult. In extreme cases, a horse may struggle to breathe while simply standing still. Previous studies have shown that using bedding and feed low in mold and dust and providing plenty of fresh air through turnout are the most effective management techniques for horses with heaves.
Looking for another tool to help heavey horses, researchers at Utrecht University tested air ionizers, which send negatively charged electrons into the surrounding air where they attach to particles that are then trapped by the unit’s air filters. The ionizers were used in four barns that had six stalls each. At two of the barns straw bedding was used and horses were fed hay, while at the other two, stalls were bedded with wood shavings and the horses were fed low-dust haylage. Dust particulate levels in each environment were measured multiple times, both during the day and at night, over a six-week period and with the ionizers turned on and off.
The data showed that the ionizers did not reduce concentrations of airborne particles in any of the barns. What’s more, air levels of irritants were significantly higher in the barns with straw and hay compared to those where wood shavings and haylage were used. “The substantial effect of low-dust bedding and feed is confirmed,” the researchers concluded.
Reference: “Effect of ionization, bedding, and feeding on air quality in a horse stable,” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, February 2018