It does seem a little counterintuitive that a mammal designed to permanently live outside and eat grass may, in fact, be allergic to grass, flower or tree pollens or a combination of all three but, it is true.
Horse Pollen Allergy Symptoms
Management is absolutely critical to the welfare of these horses and here are some key pointers, with some strong similarities to treating COPD
Symptoms are not just limited to respiratory problem bus can also present as behaviour or performance issues. They can also mimic other conditions and vice-versa.
- Coughing. Similar to humans, pollen allergy can be similar to human hay fever. Sometime mid and sometimes quite debilitating.
- Coughing can sometimes be “drier” and the horse may swallow after coughing
- Discharge from the nose. A “snotty” nose can indicate a pollen allergy. Take care that it is not some form of COPD, brought on through dusty stables for example. Discharge can be clear, white or yellow. Again take care that discharge colour does not indicate infection (often green) which would suggest a problem other than an allergic reaction
- Respiration rate may be increased
- Overall respiratory issues could manifest in a line on the abdomen (heave line) where, in chronic cases, the musculature is developed to cope with the increased effort in breathing
Performance and Behaviour
- Headshaking. This can be particularly noticeable when a horse lives near or rides past plants with strong-smelling pollen. For example, riding past rape field will often bring on headshaking
- Horse my loose fitness or appear “lazy”
- In extreme cases, this could lead to a more severe reaction to work. As an example, horse pollen allergy have on the past lead people to wonder if their horse had a brain tumour
- The horse could be flaring its nostrils
- Rubbing on fence posts and stable doors
- Physical irritation of the skin
- The horse could be biting affected areas, leaving it exposed to further infection
Allergy symptoms are easy to misdiagnose.
For example, head shaking can be a sign of muscular discomfort in the back as well as distress through pollen allergy.
There are plenty of supplements which can help regulate the horse’s discomfort and calm inflammation. This is the biological key to dealing with pollen problems as the allergic reaction is caused by an excessive response of the immune system to the sudden stimulus of different trigger points.
Horse Pollen Allergy Treatment
You won’t probably be able to identify the specific pollens which trigger your horse’s discomfort but monitor carefully what you find in the environment that seems to make it worse.
The weather and location can have a big impact on a horse’s response to pollen. Keep a diary so you can look back and assess where your horse was, what he was doing and, what the weather was doing. There is a daily pollen forecast alongside the weather so it is easy to keep track of pollen levels in your geographical region.
- Avoid any dust or irritation, again by keeping the horse at grass as much as you can. Feed hay that has been soaked, dampened or steamed
- Stable confinement can make pollen issues worse particularly in modern stables which tend to lack adequate ventilation or American barns. Turn the horse out as much as possible but on hot humid days with static air flow and a high pollen count, keep him in
In some cases horse pollen allergy symptoms can be reduced using a physical barrier.
- Use a nose net whilst riding
- Some people smear Vaseline around the nostrils before doing so to desensitise
Nose nets are a fine mesh that attach to the bridle and effectively form a physical filter fro air being bathed in, thus capturing pollen spoors causing irritation.
Some are better than others. This one by Equilibrium is subtle with a fine mesh
Pollenex, from global herbs is designed to provide relief from horse pollen allergies. Containing Hay, Soybean meal, Horseradish, Turmeric, Herbal Extracts (Liquorice, Malabar Nut, Kantakari, Ginger, Lebbeck Tree,Long Pepper, Holy Basil), this is available in both power and liquid form. The power form is more powerful.