Winter Woes – The hidden allergens in your horse’s stable

Does your horse develop a cough when you stable him in bad weather? Or become itchy as you start to rug up for the colder months?

A question we often hear is “how can a horse be allergic to mites and moulds commonly found in our own homes?” The answer is that there are many different places within your horse’s stable, feed stores and tack room where these troublesome allergens can be found, and it’s often in the autumn and winter months that they thrive.

The good news is that we have lots of tips on how you can minimise these allergens and reduce your horse’s exposure. Below are some key spots to consider if your horse has indoor allergies.

Masked in material:

Rugs and other textiles are a favourite place for mites to hang out and for moulds to grow. Washing items on really hot temperatures, and drying them in the sun when possible, will help as mites struggle in hot, dry conditions. Try to change saddle cloths and rugs as often as is practical, and if you need to store textiles ensure they are dry before putting in air tight packing.

 

Forgotten in feed:

Storage mites feed on grains and cereals and are commonly found in the dusty remnants at the bottom of feed bags. Emptying feed from bags into resealable plastic containers can help. You should clean these containers regularly, as well as rinsing your horse’s feed buckets daily, and consider buying smaller bags of feed to ensure batches are kept fresh. Mould can also be a problem in feed, for example on fruit and vegetables or in poorer quality or badly stored forage.

Disguised in dust:

We have all probably been guilty at some time or another of letting a few too many spider webs build up or allowing dust to settle on the ledges of our stables. These sorts of environments are a haven for dust mites who feed on the components of dust. Keeping on top of cleaning your horse’s stable, as well as other areas such as indoor arenas and barns, will help to decrease the prevalence of dust mites.

Hiding in hay:

Finding the best quality forage for your horse is not always an easy task, with availability varying year on year, but ensuring you feed hay or haylage which is free from dust and mould could really help a horse who suffers with indoor allergies. Steaming or soaking hay before feeding can also be beneficial.

 

Buried in bedding:

Dust can also easily build up in bedding, both in the stable and when it is being stored. Dust is thought to act as an irritant making the airways more susceptible to allergens. To reduce this you could consider buying smaller bales of straw and shavings and fully changing bedding more regularly.

Lurking on leather:

Mould will flourish on damp leather, especially on the spare bits of tack that you do not use as often. Try to keep tack and other leather items clean and dry and tackle any general damp in your tack room by keeping it well ventilated and addressing damp patches in paintwork.

Multiplying on mortar:

Mould is common in damp environments, such as behind peeling paint on brickwork or moist chipboard, or in water damaged buildings. Heavy vegetation, climbing plants and fallen leaves may also exacerbate damp issues so it’s a good idea to keep building clear of these.

 

Allergen avoidance is just one factor to consider in long term allergy management. If your horse is diagnosed with an allergy, your vet will devise a treatment plan which may also include steps to care for your horse’s skin, control an itch or assist with breathing, and /or desensitise your horse to specific allergens.

Written by Emma Kilmurray – Technical Support Manager

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