Hot Mess

It’s that time of year again… 90 degrees with 9000% humidity, and it’s only going to get worse. Anyone who knows Henry is aware of his heat intolerance issues. He sweats like a champ, he just can’t breathe, especially when it’s humid. By this point I’ve had 3 different vets look at him over 3 different summers with no real solid answers. Last summer I also tried putting him on a supplement called Lung EQ, hoping it might help, but really the only thing that made a difference was going to Arizona where there was no humidity.

sup girl?

Of course, it’s not really feasible to just up and go somewhere else every summer. He’s been manageable enough at home, I just have to be careful when I ride him. By this point I’ve gotten it down to a science, really, and have a whole box of special summer stuff for Henry. I haven’t given up trying different things though, so every winter I think about what else I can try, and every summer we give it a go.

This year we’re trying two things: body clipping and an Omega Alpha Equine supplement called Respi-Free. The body clip was an easy decision. Henry is naturally a thick-coated horse, and even his summer coat is more like what you’d expect on a shetland than a thoroughbred. His front end was pretty slick, but his butt was hairy,

I’ve never body clipped one of my horses in the summer, so I wasn’t sure how it would look. Before I started I even had the thought that I might have to go buy a Fine blade, because his neck and chest hair might not be long enough for the Medium. HA!

There was plenty of hair. PLENTY. Once I started I was shocked at how much was peeling off. He accepted his fate without much protest, and an hour and half later I had a much sleeker horse and a huge pile of “summer coat”.

broom for scale

I also started the Respi-Free the same day, which is the supplement that was recommended to me at Rolex by the Omega Alpha rep. Basically it’s a combination of all of their other breathing supplements, intended for horses with general respiratory issues and/or horses with COPD. All 3 vets have ruled out COPD, but the “general respiratory issues” part does apply. In the summer anyway. Respi-Free a liquid supplement that contains natural cough suppressants (which, Henry never coughs, but…) and bronchodilators. I hate supplements in general, liquid supplements specifically, and liquid supplements that have to be given by dosing syringe are like top of the chain kind of hatred. But I’m willing to try anything to make summers easier for him, so I figured we’d try a bottle and see how it goes.

he’s in a yoga phase

So far, so good. We’re only a few rides in since the clip and starting the Respi-Free but he’s definitely breathing a little easier. He’s still puffing when we’re done riding, but he actually seems able to decrease his respiratory rate on his own as we walk out (before it really wouldn’t go down until I got off and started hosing). I don’t know if that’s the body clip at work or if the Respi-Free is actually helping, but I’m not going to complain. We’ll see how things go over the next month or two!

24 thoughts on “Hot Mess

  1. you could send Henry to me for the Summer. Since we have had nonstop rain and cool temps (it was 51 degrees this a.m. WTF??) he would be fine up here 🙂

    I am hoping the new stuff helps with him!! You definitely have special snowflakes for horses LOL


  2. Thanks for this post Amanda, my Vesper also has mild COPD and I’ve been a bit more aware of it this year as we might be having a slamming hot summer. Usually I dose her with Zev cough syrup, but I’ve been wondering about the AO products so it’s nice to hear you’re seeing a bit of an improvement with it. I’ll keep that one on the list 🙂


  3. I also have a horse with COPD that is not an issue in cooler weather but revs up in April. I’ve never had a liquid supplement that worked a fraction as well as a few rounds of Dex does but I haven’t tried this one. Interested to see if it makes a difference!


  4. hm hopefully it works out for Henry! charlie has some past lung issues (a paralyzed cartilage flap that went undiagnosed for way too long resulting in some pretty serious problems) and ultimately always raced in a flair nasal strip. knowing that, going into my first summer with him, i’m trying to observe whether the warmer weather causes any additional distress. such special snowflakes, these horses.


  5. You may not be looking for advice, so feel free to ignore me, but I had a horse with COPD for years so I’ve played with a lot of stuff. The very best supplement that we had him on for years was AllerCheck. It worked really well for us for years in the humid midwest summers (and cold, dry winters).


    1. Well, he’s not actually COPD. It’s the first thing every vet has guessed, but each of them ruled it out. We’re not really sure why he has a hard time in the summer, aside from the fact that he has some scar tissue in his lungs.


  6. Does he eat from a round-bale or flaked hay? A couple horses at my barn have COPD and their symptoms improve greatly when they’re on flaked hay, preferably wetted down. I love round bales for other reasons, but standing with their heads in a big round-bale all day, breathing in hay particles, is not good.


  7. Is there abyone you could ask from his past who could tell you if he had pneunomia or something that might have lead to scar tissue? Or has that been ruled out with the COPD?
    Maybe not dealing well with heat is common for his bloodlines….can’t remember right now if you know them?
    I can certainly sympathize, I am so not build for heat.
    Just reading about your usual weather makes my head pound….
    I really hope the body clip and the supplement help!!


    1. That was one vet’s guess but I don’t have a real way to confirm. I do know his bloodlines though. Mostly I’m just glad that he sweats well… it would be a big problem if he didn’t!


  8. I think I remember you saying that he’s also a tough horse to fit up, and that you spend a lot of time on fitness work at home? This is kind of out-there, but sometimes metabolic issues like Cushings have heat intolerance, difficulty gaining fitness, and respiratory stuff. I probably sound like someone with a hammer looking for a nail, but trouble getting fit + not coping well with weather changes were Tristan’s earliest signs of very mild Cushings. It can start with horses as young as 12 or 14.


    1. No he’s actually very easy to get fit. I do keep him a bit overfit, to help compensate for the breathing issue in the summer. Last year we did a ton of fitness work getting ready for the 3 day, maybe that’s what you’re thinking of?


      1. I think that’s what I’m thinking of, sorry – that combined with you wanting to get him overfit to compensate. Carry on, then, my brain is just being paranoid. 🙂


  9. Hope the clipping and the meds help!! My old horse had terrible respiratory issues (inflammatory airway disease), but his were 100% allergy related and zyrtec + some dex usually did the trick. Have any vets mentioned an inhaler for Henny? I know humans can get heat related exercise intolerance, so I’m sure horses can too.

    I clipped Siggy a few days ago and HOLY hair… I don’t think he got the memo to fully shed out this year. He looks and feels sooo much better though.


    1. No one has been concerned about it enough to really want to try anything pricey or out of the box. It’s not particularly severe (his core temperature never actually increases and his heartrate stays reasonable, he just puffs so hard that he looks like he’s going to keel over and die). We did do some experimental dex, which helped with his princess skin but didn’t change the breathing.


  10. Sounds like you have a potentially solid management plan. Hope the new supplement helps him out!
    I don’t have a lot of experience with equine respiratory stuff, so no real advice. My trainer’s horse had some breathing troubles awhile back, but turned out to be bad allergies. She uses a nebulizer when the allergies act up which seems to make a big difference. I’m not sure if that would translate to Henry if it’s not allergy related though.


  11. Thanks for posting. I’ve been struggling with the same issue with my horse and we’ve tried a million different things and nothing seems to work, and no one seems to know why he has trouble breathing. Let us know if it works!


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