Spring is busting out all over, the clocks have gone forward, and horse owners are preparing to enjoy fair weather with their equine buddies. Many of us humans, though, have our spring blighted by hay fever … pollen allergies bring on runny noses, itchy eyes and a feeling of general malaise.
You may not be aware that horses can have hay fever too. In fact its fairly common, especially in older horses.
Pollen is great for bees and butterflies, but not so great for many of us and our horses! Pollen allergy (just like dust allergies) cause the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose to become inflamed and uncomfortable, which of course has a negative effect on horses.
Symptoms of Horse Hay Fever
Hay fever manifests in horses very similarly to what it does in humans. The equine nasal cavity contains long hairs to trap and filter out any miniscule particles like pollen or dust before they penetrate deeper into the airway. When there’s plenty of pollen being inhaled, it can build up and trigger an allergic reaction, making the blood vessels dilate and the nasal cavity lining becomes inflamed.
In severe cases inflammation extends beyond the sinus area and can cause inflammation all the way into the lungs.
If your horse has hay fever you’ll be able to tell because he’ll be doing plenty of head shaking, be coughing, have an eye discharge and be generally lethargic. He’ll probably also show some behavioural issues, and perform poorly.
Avoiding Horse Hay Fever
If you know your horse well you’ll probably know he is prone to horse hay fever, so when the pollen count is high you should take some precautions to help him avoid discomfort.
The obvious thing to do is not to take him out when there are high levels of pollen being wafted about – particularly near any prolific sources of pollen like wildflower meadows, orchards and those extensive yellow rape fields. You could consider keeping him in during the day and turning out at night when pollen levels are lower.
When he’s out and about you can help manage the symptoms of horse hay fever like head shaking and coughing by using a well fitting full face mask or nose net with a fine mesh. This will protect delicate muzzles from flies and midges, and sunburn, too, which will also become more prevalent as the weather warms.
There are also various herbs and horse supplements that will ease the symptoms of hay fever, helping to rid the nasal passages of mucous and easing his breathing. Seek out supplements that treat respiratory problems and feed therapeutic herbs like garlic (also an insect repellent). There are also specialised herb blends and supplements available like Equine America PollenEze or Global Herbs PolleneX.
If you suspect your horse is suffering the sniffles this spring and summer, chat to us at Totally Tack and we’ll come up with advice and ideas to help you ease his suffering, so you can enjoy the season happily together.