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Allergies and the event horse....

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  • Allergies and the event horse....

    My new guy has what seems to be seasonal allergies.

    He has a very mild whistle/wheeze when he exhales, and most people don't hear it but I do because I'm paranoid.

    I had the vet check him out and she said that he has allergies and suggested that I use Cough Free before and during events.

    I want to stress that this is VERY mild and doesn't seem to affect him in any way, but I want to make sure he's as comfortable as possible.

    The next step, of course, is to do an allergy test but I think the only one available to me in this area would be a blood test.

    Anyway, I am looking for suggestions as to what I can do for his breathing at an event.

    I know that I can use a small amount of dex but I would rather try to use something that is not a controlled substance. I'm also struggling with a wicked case of scratches that are (finally!) going away and I'd rather not kick his immune system down and let the scratches flare up again.

    Any experience with the SmartBreathe supplement or Cough Free? I tried Benedryl but am unsure if that is a banned substance or not...(I think it is) and can't say for certain that it helped.

    FWIW, we're running at the Novice level and he's gone Prelim in the past with a previous owner. I'm going to contact them tomorrow and see if they ever did testing on him... He's in a significantly different area now than he was before so maybe we have some weird weed that irritates his little nasals.

  • #2
    Try MSM. I have a very allergic mare. She breaks out in hives from insect bites and tends to cough from systemic allergies related to the bites as well as from environmental irritants like mold and such as well. I won't say that the MSM has been a cure-all, but it certainly has helped. She also lives out 24-7. I've considered some of the other "cough" supplements when her coughing has gotten bad, but so far this year, her coughing has been nearly non-existent. So, I'd say to monitor your horse's environment like a hawk-see what you can clean up or eliminate first before you supplement. Then, go from there.

    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."-Aristotle


    • #3
      Be very careful that what you use isn't on the illegal drugs list. My former Saint of a Paint developed pretty bad seasonal allergies during the last year I had him, and most of the over the counter meds had a forbidden substance to them. I tried them anyway, figuring that I wouldn't compete him while he was on them (mostly during the spring), but they didn't do anything to alleviate his discomfort. His allergies, like your horse's, also were mostly respiratory.

      I was desperate to help him, so I did pay for the blood test and started him on injections. He was getting two shots every other day to start, and then tapered down to once a week, then once a month, and wow - did they make a difference! No wheezing, no more snotty nose, no more runny eyes. I ended up selling him to a woman down in GA who has competed him very successfully, so I think the shots are still working.

      The blood test was initially expensive (about $300), but the injections themselves were not - about $30/month. So, I'd definitely look into this option!
      "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

      So, the Zen Buddhist says to the hotdog vendor, "Make me one with everything."


      • #4
        Cough Free is awful stuff, my horse wont eat it.

        I evented a horse with heaves for 10 years, so more than allergies at the point I got him. He didnt wheeze or have asthma like symptoms like most do, he just has a lot of excess mucous in his lungs and coughs to get it out. With horses lungs, allergies are basically pollen, dust and/or mold. So he didnt eat hay all show season to avoid mold. I wouldnt ride in dusty rings whenever possible (sometimes this meant very little warmup as Id just do some little circles on the grass and jump a fence and go in). The pollen wasnt avoidable, but it also didnt seem to be a main trigger for him, once mould and dust were eliminated. He lived on pasture and was better than anywhere else so I assumed pollen wasnt his thang. I had him on Recovery EQ for its anti-inflammatory properties and it did help. He also had clenbuterol leading up to an event, but that is legal here, not in the US. Maintenance was the biggest thing.

        However, if my horse was just starting to have problems (like my young one did this spring) and changing his program didnt work (I put him on pasture and took him off hay and he didnt cough for months, ate hay yesterday and coughed) I would have done the test and shots.

        Mud fever tip: supplement with copper.


        • #5
          My horse had the same symptom. I switched from baled hay to good quality hay cubes and it cleared immediately. I've since progressed to soaked hay and he's still not had any recurrence.

          I don't have a lot of faith in results from blood allergy tests but his highest reaction was too a type of mite often found in baled hay. Then there is always the dust and mold that causes the problem in many horses. Whatever caused the problem, either hay cubes or soaked/rinsed hay seems to fix it.


          • #6
            My horse was a bit heavy and coughed up awful phlegm after working. I completely changed his management. He lives out with access to a stall with Woody Pet (not shavings), when needed I soak his hay for 10 mins, and he gets 10,000 mg MSM and 20 gm ( or it might be mg?) spirulina every day. Using this approach, he has been fine. The Horse Journal did a write up on spirulina several years ago, and they reported that it helped many heavy horses. To my knowledge (and he has been tested), it doesn't test. It is derived from seaweed.


            • Original Poster

              Thanks for the input thus far. I am looking at this list of forbidden substances: http://www.usef.org/documents/drugsm...nsPamphlet.pdf

              But don't know if there is a more comprehensive list out there.

              I would like to try the SmartBreathe if it appears to be a legal thing. He's a picky eater and I don't think he'd eat the Cough Free seeing as he doesn't always want to eat his current supplements (one of which is MSM). Just recently he started cleaning up his dish so I don't want to stop that.

              I'll also start soaking his hay when I get home from our trip next week. We make and bale our own hay (square bales) so I know it is good quality and not dusty but I suppose there is always a little bit of "dust" in hay bales? IDK. I'd like to put him on pasture and hope to do that soon but he's got "special needs" as far as fencing goes so I've got to do some renovations first.

              I'll be getting the vet out next time she comes up to our area and run that blood test.


              • #8
                As for MSM, my horse would not eat most MSM, but he does eat the Smart MSM, the cherry flavored one.


                • Original Poster

                  IFG, I just started him on SmartGain4 and I think that the fenugreek or whatever it is called has truly increased his appetite as he's now eating ALL his supplements and ALL his grain.

                  Or he has just finally adjusted to his food.

                  He's one of those horses that is picky, has little appetite, and needs to gain weight. Typically in the past, he nibbles, nibbles nibbbles and eventually finishes one meal just before I serve the next. He's in no hurry to eat, which in some ways is a good thing!

                  He's on a whack of supplements and is getting fed grain 3x a day.

                  Although if it looks like he's not eating his supps again, I may switch to the Smart MSM. I didn't realize it was cherry flavored!

                  His other supps are a magnesium supplement, smart calm ultra, smart hoof, u gaurd, and MSM as well as Cool Calories and smart gain 4.

                  I need to do some management of his supplement numbers but not sure where to start. Ugh!


                  • #10
                    If smartpak shipped to Canada mine would be on it. Along with a bunch of others by them. No experience with their supps but they do sound appealing.


                    • #11
                      If he were my horse, I'd cut at least the magnesium sup and the Cool Calories...those are basically redundant of the SmartCalm and SmartGain. I also prefer the SmartDigest Ultra to any of the other ulcer/digestion sups (next to Tractgard, which is my second choice).

                      As to your original question, keep him out as much as you can, keep his hay wet/supplement with chopped hay or soaked cubes, avoid riding him on poor air quality days and in dusty environments. He sounds pretty minor, but these are all pretty easy things to do for him to avoid a big problem.

                      FWIW, I tried MSM for Vernon's skin allergies...absolutely no help. And, I know of two horses who's people have tried spirulina (one is a head shaker). Neither will touch the stuff, and since both are on the skinny side, it wasn't worth them going off their food.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by yellowbritches View Post
                        And, I know of two horses who's people have tried spirulina (one is a head shaker). Neither will touch the stuff, and since both are on the skinny side, it wasn't worth them going off their food.
                        Too funny, that is the one supplement that my horse really seems to like!

                        FWIW, I use U-7, and my horse does well on it.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by IFG View Post
                          Too funny, that is the one supplement that my horse really seems to like!

                          FWIW, I use U-7, and my horse does well on it.
                          Which brand do you use? They both tried the Springtime brand, and both the boys went yuck. I didn't blame them...the stuff smells like a stagnant pond.


                          • Original Poster

                            Originally posted by yellowbritches View Post
                            If he were my horse, I'd cut at least the magnesium sup and the Cool Calories...those are basically redundant of the SmartCalm and SmartGain. I also prefer the SmartDigest Ultra to any of the other ulcer/digestion sups (next to Tractgard, which is my second choice).

                            As to your original question, keep him out as much as you can, keep his hay wet/supplement with chopped hay or soaked cubes, avoid riding him on poor air quality days and in dusty environments. He sounds pretty minor, but these are all pretty easy things to do for him to avoid a big problem.

                            FWIW, I tried MSM for Vernon's skin allergies...absolutely no help. And, I know of two horses who's people have tried spirulina (one is a head shaker). Neither will touch the stuff, and since both are on the skinny side, it wasn't worth them going off their food.
                            Yellow Britches,

                            I agree with you on what to cut.... although for the moment he's FINALLY gaining weight so I'm going to keep him on the Cool Cals for the time being.

                            As far as his day to day management, the horses have to be in because of the bugs during the day, but he is in a truly non dusty environment--the shavings are "green" and not dusty at all. I even avoid sweeping the barn when the horses are in. I will start soaking his hay though, that's a great idea.

                            Lately we've had so much rain the ring is ALMOST too wet but definitely not dusty... and we have no pollution here, so I guess I should look into high pollen days? I have no idea how that even works!

                            Do you have any thoughts as to the most effective way to soak or rinse hay and then feed it efficiently? New territory for me!


                            • #15
                              I've been struggling with the same situation with my horse. My vet recently gave him a steroid shot and we are going to put him on a trihist to see if that will make a difference. The trihist is banned but since we don't have any shows planned this summer, we are going to see if it will help him. I've heard it also doesn't have a great taste so we shall see if he will even eat it!

                              I'm implementing the soaking of his hay and feed too. From what I've been told spraying the hay down or soaking it in a tub of water will do the trick. Whatever you can do to minimize the dust from the hay will help.

                              Good luck!


                              • #16
                                I think spraying it down or stuffing it in a tub of water is probably sufficient for your horse...you just want to wet down any potential allergen...I don't think it requires the soaking and rinsing needed for an IR horse. I could be totally way off base, but since your horse isn't massively heaving, just taking a little precaution is probably more than enough.

                                You can probably find out about pollen count either through weather.com or your local weather forecast.

                                Don't forget that mold is an allergen, and mold can happen when things are soggy. Make sure he's not hanging around in damp and musty stalls.

                                You could also get a HayGain! http://www.haygain.com/


                                • #17
                                  I buy my spirulina by the pound from these folks:


                                  Their service is great.

                                  When he is bad, I give him a scoop AM and PM per the Horse Journal, but right now he only gets it in the AM. I have a dry lot, so I wonder if he loves it as a source of greenery. Who knows?

                                  FWIW, for my horse living out is the key. I bring him to another barn to get shod. Standard barn with an attached indoor. He coughs for a few hours after we leave. So long as he lives out with his run-in stall, he is fine.

                                  Also, I found that wetting the hay didn't get all the dust, I had to soak it for about 10 minutes. This is especially fun in the winter. Last winter, when the temps were in the single digits, I bagged the soaking, and --cross your fingers for me-- he has been fine.