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Towards the end of last week I noticed Scottie to be coughing. It wasn’t constant, but if he coughed once, it would soon be followed by at least 5 more choking coughs. It did seem to clear up with exercise but it really isn’t like him to be coughing at all!
Scottie has the yard hay which comes in a large, round bale and the last bale we had was fairly dusty, which I’m hoping is the cause of the cough. So on Sunday I started making changes to how I manage Scottie to hopefully cure his cough, or at least rule out the dusty hay as the cause!
He is now having all the hay in his stable soaked. The soaking facilities are fairly limited one or two half water butts. To make Scottie’s hay fit in these water butts I am splitting it over two haynets. One of these nets is soaked for 6+ hours. I put it in before I go to work/home/bed and pull it out to drain when I next go up there. The second of his two haynets is having a good dunk/short soak, depending on time.
I am also trying emptying his hay on the floor. He doesn’t tend to be a messy eater, so there shouldn’t be too much wastage. However, he is a piglet and there is a good chance he will just munch through all his hay. So the smaller of the two haynets is being hung up, albeit as low as I dare!
So why have I done these things?
In case you are wondering how these changes to our routine might improve Scottie’s cough, I have a few simple explanations. If the cough is caused by dusty hay, soaking the hay stops it being dusty, so in theory, removing the cause of the cough.
Feeding from the floor is a natural position for horses to eat from and research suggests that horses keeping their heads low can help clear their respiratory system. So putting most of his hay on the floor should hopefully help clear any gunk which has built up in there which might be contributing to his cough.
Am I doing anything else?
Yes! Several things! Our fields are very wet at the moment, so Scottie isn’t going out as much as I would like, but I am putting him out as much as I can. This is important as 1) he will spend most of his time grazing with his head down, 2) there shouldn’t be anything in his field to cause his cough and 3) he will be able to move around more, which will hopefully help to clear his respiratory system.
If he can’t go out in the field, I make sure he gets out of his stable for some exercise whether it’s a good walk in hand, a lung or ride. Exercise often helps the horse ‘clear their throat’ which is why many horses might cough when they are being warmed up.
I am also putting more water in Scottie’s feeds. Although his feed isn’t dusty, making it wetter makes it softer and less likely to irritate his throat as he eats it. Along with this I have put his very minty molasses lick on the floor of his stable. There are two main reasons behind this, again it is encouraging him to stretch his head and neck down, clearing his airways, but also I’m applying a bit of human logic in that strong minty flavours help clear our colds and throats, so it might help him too! There are special respiratory licks available, but I didn’t have one to hand when I decided to try this. I am keeping an eye on how much he is using his lick as too much sugar isn’t good for a horse. But luckily Scottie seems to be more interested in his hay than his lick. So hopefully he can be trusted to keep it in his stable!
Hopefully we will see an improvement over the next week or so with these management changes. If we don’t or it gets worse, we will have to think about getting the vet to take a look to rule out an infection of some kind. But so far I am confident that these changes in my management of Scottie will show some kind of improvement to his cough soon. I would love to hear any of tips you have for clearing a cough in horses!