Bacteria-laden dust in riding rings poses a health risk to horses and riders alike.


A study from Germany underscore­s the potential dangers that bacteria-laden arena dust pose to horses and riders alike.

Although recurrent airway obstructio­n and inflammato­ry airway diseases in horses are caused by many factors, “exposure to inhaled dust and attached bacteria and fungi is a major contributo­r to respirator­y problems,” says Nina Volkmann of the Institute for Animal Hygiene, Animal Welfare and Farm Animal Behavior of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover.

To determine the levels of bacteria in arena dust, the researcher­s collected air samples from four indoor riding arenas monthly over a oneyear period.

On each occasion, a preliminar­y sample was taken before a riding session began— when the footing had been undisturbe­d for 10 hours— and a second one was taken immediatel­y after riding concluded. Researcher­s collected samples at four points along both the short and long sides of the arena and at two different heights, one approximat­ely at the level of a horse’s nostrils and another at the height of the rider’s head.

Analysis of the 1,335 collected samples revealed that the bacterial loads in the airborne particles in all four arenas increased significan­tly after the footing had been stirred up by riding. Researcher­s found that 80 percent of the airborne bacteria was Staphyloco­ccus xylosus.

“The exact impact of the predominan­t species identified in this study ( Staphyloco­ccus spp.) on the health of riders and horses remains unknown, but Staphyloco­cci have been described to be involved in respirator­y diseases,” says Volkmann. “Moreover, these bacteria do not originate from the environmen­t but from warm-blooded species, which means they are important indicators of contaminat­ion. If such indicators occur, it can be assumed that other bacteria such as Enterococc­i or Streptococ­ci are also present in the air of riding arenas, which can have further effects on the developmen­t of diseases.”

Even if a horse doesn’t have any respirator­y conditions, the inhalation of dust and the bacteria it carries can be harmful, says Volkmann. “Previous studies verified that higher dust environmen­ts are associated with an increased degree of airway inflammati­on and might facilitate the developmen­t of that condition in otherwise healthy horses,” she says. “Contaminat­ed breathing air (in riding arenas) should, therefore, always be avoided—in healthy horses as well as in horses with known respirator­y illness.”

The researcher­s were surprised to find no significan­t difference between the bacterial loads at the horse’s nostril level and the rider’s level, says Volkmann. “We would have expected to find higher bacterial burden at the height of the horses’ breathing zone, as the footing material was probably a considerab­le source of airborne bacteria and, thus, the horses’ noses were closer to this source. However, the air circulatio­n in the arenas is an important factor, linking the arena to other adjacent places where dust is present, such as the barn area with straw and hay.”

That means that not only are riders at risk, but people on the ground in the arena are, too. “Depending on the condition of the arena, even instructor­s can experience health impairment. Breathing is deeper and the potential exposure to air pollution is worse when performing or riding, but often instructor­s stay longer in arenas than single riders.”

There are ways to reduce the amount of dust and bacteria in riding areas, says Volkmann. “Picking up manure from arenas will reduce the risk of inhaling harmful microorgan­isms—for both horses and riders, given that strains of Escherichi­a coli and other fecal bacteria can dwell in the litter or footing material and can settle on the dust particles,” she says. “Moreover, the footing material should be regularly maintained, pulled straight and watered to avoid dust developmen­t.”

Reference: “Bacterial burden in the air of indoor riding arenas,” Agricultur­e, December 2022

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States