Nutritional Support for the Respiratory System


Horses evolved to thrive on wide open plains, where, as creatures of flight, their response reactions had to be very quick.  This applies to that of their respiratory tract which is designed for exerting maximum performance when fleeing predators.  Since domestication our expectations of our horses are quite the opposite, as they are often living and working in comparatively enclosed environments. These can create pressures for the modern horse, which is frequently evident in the health and integrity of the respiratory system.

Avoid stressing the lungs

Throughout the year respiratory issues can be caused by many influences.  For instance, throughout those long awaited warmer months when flowers are in full bloom causing the pollen count to increase – pollen spores can cause allergies in our horses as easy as those that occur amongst ourselves.  While, during the winter months, due to weather conditions and shorter days, our horses tend to spend longer stabled and working indoors.  This means it can be difficult to avoid exposing the horses to heavy dust burdens such as hay, straw, or arena dust when worked and other factors which can stress the lungs.

Stabling and turnout  

Management plays an important role in helping our horses to cope with these stresses placed on the respiratory system. Turning the susceptible horse out in the field  as much as possible will help to reduce exposure to the dust environments, in fact, sometimes it is even worth checking to see it is viable to keep your horse permanently at grass to help combat this issue.  When this is not possible a compromise between stabling and turnout ideally needs to be established.

Choose low dust bedding

When stabled, try to ensure your horse has plenty of adequate ventilation to provide him with fresh air at all times.  Choosing low dust bedding options and considering changing hay to haylage can be beneficial because changing from this helps to provide a lower dust burden than dry hay alone. Additionally, soaking or steaming hay may also be advised as this swells the dust spores meaning they are swallowed rather than inhaled. If taking this option it is important not to soak for too long as this can leach nutrients, around 20 minutes is adequate. When the hay is fed while still wet it will prove more valuable than if allowed to dry as the benefit may be lost. Most horses will also find feeding from the floor, rather than from a haynet, will help any mucus drain out naturally, as this imitates the horses natural feeding/grazing position.

Competition horses suffer

A study at Bristol University Veterinary School found that sub-clinical respiratory stress was present in the majority (up to 80%) of competition horses. This should come as no great surprise given the respiratory challenges of stabling, regular travel, often meeting new horses and working in schools that apply to our equine athletes.

This leads onto an important factor, as horse owners can we provide our horses with something they may already be lacking?  We can by simply offering the right, targeted, nutritional support which can play a significant role in helping to meet your horse’s respiratory requirements.  By offering day to day dietary care will help to offer vital ingredients the horse may not presently be able to access as they would have done previously in the wild.


One of the title ingredients to look out for are naturally sourced, scientifically verified antioxidants.  Not only can these help support the lungs by harmlessly flushing the toxins from areas that may be affected.  Combining these antioxidants with key herbal extracts for immune support, such as echinacea, and the natural essential oils of clove and eucalyptus your horse can be offered five star support through a supplement.

Therefore, it can be seen that by combining good daily management with correct nutritional support will help clear the way for optimum lung function.

NAF recommend Five Star Respirator Boost which provides valuable nutritional support to the respiratory mucosal immune system and the delicate capillary blood vessels that surround the lungs.

For further information or advice please call one of NAF’s friendly, qualified nutritionists on the NAF Freephone Advice Line: 0800 373106, e-mail or go to

Author: Features Editor

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