Around this time last year Scottie started coughing for the first time ever. This was closely followed by some kind of virus/illness with lots of mucous and gunk. After the gunk had gone, the cough hung around for a little bit, with Scottie coughing a few times when we first moved into trot either riding or on the lunge. This can be normal if a horse is recovering from a respiratory illness and at some point over the summer months it cleared up completely.
However, since the start of the year, I have noticed this cough reappearing. While this cough is pretty much only at the start of the ride with the very occasional cough on the yard, the fact that it has come back has made me start to think it is environmental, rather than it being a side effect of an illness. So I have been doing a lot of thinking to try and work out what could be the cause.
Scottie has only ever shown symptoms at our current yard, so I am fairly confident that it is something different here than at other yards. I have narrowed down these potential causes to 2 key areas and I have started looking into ways of changing this.
I have always had Scottie on shavings and I have loved them. However, at our yard we aren’t allowed shavings or any wood based bedding. Therefore Scottie has been on treated chopped straw supplied by the yard owner. Now this bedding doesn’t seem dusty in itself. But it isn’t very absorbent and I have been semi deep littering him so that:
- A) I don’t spend a fortune on bedding
- B) so that I don’t have to dig out the wet every morning, as some days he does stay in and I don’t want to be putting him back in the stable after that.
For a while now I have been looking at changing his bedding to something else. But I am struggling with what to choose. Mainly because we are limited by what we can use. I am considering wood pellets (if I am allowed these) either on their own or with chopped straw on top. Any advice on what works for you would be fantastic!
I am also starting to think that maybe his stable doesn’t have great ventilation either. He has the top door always open and also has a grated window on the front of his stable. There is a very high ceiling too – which I don’t know if helps or not. But I wouldn’t have said there is much airflow in there.
Our stable also looks over the arena, which could potentially be irritating him. But, the school tends to be dustiest over the summer when it is warm and dry, and the Summer was when his cough cleared up last year. So I am not convinced about this being a factor.
His stable is middle of the yard. He isn’t near the hay barn nor does his neighbour have particularly dusty bedding/hay. So there isn’t anything obvious to suggest an irritant. Which does make me think that the bedding could potentially be the key issue.
Other Possible Factors and Solutions
During my thinking, I have also discovered several other potential factors and solutions which might be making a difference.
- Respiratory Balancer
Scottie now has a Horslyx respiratory lick on the floor of his stable all the time to help improve his respiratory system. It has ingredients to help clear the throat and having it on the ground encourages natural feeding.
- Wet Feeds
All of Scottie’s feeds are very wet to help stop any dust getting stuck or irritating him.
- Sweeping his shelf
Scottie’s hay currently hangs next to his grated window. On the inside and outside of this window is a little shelf where stray hay builds up, which could potentially be causing a problem.
- Low Hanging Hay
Unfortunately I can’t feed all of Scottie’s hay off the floor because he just makes a massive mess. But I do hang his haynets fairly low – just not low enough that I worry about him getting stuck in them! I am also starting to look into a hay bar or similar.
- Good Quality Hay
Scottie’s hay is generally pretty good quality. It occasionally isn’t fantastic. But in the past this has never been an issue, so while it might contribute to the problem, I really don’t think it is the main problem. If the hay is particularly bad I do soak it to help remove any dust.
- Not Mucking Out in the Stable
Someone made a comment recently that you shouldn’t muck out with your horse in the stable as this disturbs any dust and irritants in the stable for them to inhale. Which does make sense. So while it’s not often I do muck out with Scottie in the stable, I will make the effort to not do this.
Do any of you have any extra tips to help improve Scottie’s cough?