Equine Respiratory Health at Competitions

You’ve trained hard and practiced the sticky points over and over again. Your tack is cleaned, the trailer is packed… you feel as prepared as you can be when you pull out and head to the horse show.
You’ve done everything in your power to ensure a successful competition. So, don’t let respiratory irritations keep you out of the ribbons. Air quality at horse shows is a huge concern, what are you doing to address it?
While you can carefully design and maintain your horse’s stall at home, at a competition, you don’t have many options. Depending on the facility, you may experience a wide variety of stabling, which means that you must come prepared!
If the stall is not already stripped when you arrive, this is your first priority. Not only is stripping essential for air quality, but not doing so is also a bio health hazard, with many pathogens being able to survive in bedding.
After cleaning the stall completely (if it hasn’t already been done for you by the facility), the real work begins. Start by putting down an ample amount of relatively dust-free bedding (we know that no bedding is perfect!). If the only bedding available is going to be extremely dusty, you may want to consider bringing bedding from home. Alayne Blickle suggests the following: “Choose a less-dusty bedding option, such as pelleted bedding, which comes bagged.”
Being exposed to dust can have devastating effects on the respiratory system. Dust irritates the lining of the airways, which can lead to complications as minor as coughs and nasal secretions or as major as inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and recurrent airway obstruction (RAO).
Horses tend to be more active in their stalls when they are in unfamiliar locations, so their stalls may need more frequent cleanings. If the shavings are dusty, this will kick up the most dust during the cleaning process. If possible, try to remove your horse from the stall when you clean it to minimize the amount of dust they inhale.
Hay is another source of dust, particularly at horse shows. If you aren’t sure of the available forage’s quality, consider making alternative arrangements. Some equestrians choose to bring hay from home, while serious competitors often feed their horses bagged hay for horses. This ensures that their horses will have consistent, dust-free nutrition at home and at the horse shows, no matter where they travel!
Showing and traveling are stressful enough for your horse—so, remove respiratory stress from the equation. Keep your horses breathing easy by implementing dust-control procedures as part of your horse show routine.