Respiratory health for horses

Respiratory health – how important is the fibre you feed your horse?

When the difference between winning and losing is marginal doing everything you can to maximise respiratory health and function for your horse makes sense. The performance horse relies on their lungs to provide the oxygen that enables muscles to function and energy metabolism to occur. If the lungs aren’t healthy, the supply of oxygen may simply not be as good as it could be and performance could be compromised.

Horses with Jockeys in open field

High temperature drying is a way of conserving forages that ensures they are as clean as possible. Hot air is blown through the crop in big, but gentle, tumble driers to dry it much quicker than if it were laying in a field in the sun. This helps to lock-in nutrients as well as producing a consistently clean feed.

Many people don’t realise that some so-called performance feeds contain straw. At Dengie we believe straw is a useful ingredient but not for the Performance horse! It’s simply a case of using the right fibre for the right horse. This is why our Alfa-A range, Healthy Tummy, Performance Fibre and Meadow Grass with Herbs are all straw free and therefore super clean.

We regularly test our horse feeds for mould counts and find that the high temperature drying process results in mould levels below 100 CFUs (colony forming units) and sometimes down to single figures. Given that moulds are all around us, to have such low levels in a feed is frankly incredible. To put this into context, when we test straw, the levels are in the thousands and often in the 10’s of thousands – and this applies to other straw based products that we have tested too.


For many leisure horses, straw is a very useful ingredient as it provides fibre without too many calories and maximal lung function isn’t a priority. As obesity is a far bigger threat to health, it is sensible to use straw and other cereal by-products as a source of nutrition especially as they are low in sugar in comparison to grass forages – beneficial for laminitics in particular.

However, the fact remains that high temperature drying produces cleaner sources of fibre and where maximal lung function is vital, it makes sense to supply the cleanest source of fibre possible.

A little anecdote…
Our nutrition team visited a racehorse trainer who was spending around £1000 a month testing for mould, deep-cleaning his stables and implementing the highest standards of hygiene he could – an exceptional level of attention to detail to try to ensure his horses were performing at their highest level. However, a quick look in his feed room revealed that he was using a fibre feed that contained straw. Needless to say he has now changed what he was feeding so that no stone has been left unturned in striving to be the best!