As we reach the one week mark since the wildfire smoke lifted we wanted to send out some information on how horses are affected by smoke, and the current recommendations for returning to work, which is currently influencing our lesson plans. Some of you have probably already heard us say we will "take things slowly", but here is more on why that is so important!
Kentucky Equine Research provides a fantastic overview as follows below:
Air quality diminishes when smoke is visible, so horses should not be exercised if smoke is present. If the smoke irritates your eyes, you can assume it is bothering your horse’s eyes and lungs, too. While humans can wear masks and move into smoke-free environments, horses cannot. Limit exposure to smoke when possible, and avoid anything more than light exercise in smoky conditions.
The horse has enormous lung capacity and moves great volumes of air into and out of its lungs. Large airborne particles (>5 microns) are filtered out in the upper respiratory tract, while smaller ones may be expelled when the horse exhales. Smoke contains minute particles (<1 micron) that migrate deep into the lungs and settle there, causing damage to tissues and adversely affecting health and performance. Damage from smoke also compromises normal defense mechanisms of the lung and makes the horse more sensitive to the inflammatory effects of bacteria and pollen. Further, smoke aggravates symptoms in horses with pre-existing asthma.
After acute smoke inhalation, the horse may need 4-6 weeks off to recover before returning to training, even if it does not require veterinary intervention. A minimum rest period would be 2 weeks.
Dr. Janine M Wilson of Oregon Equine recommends the following recovery plan:
After the smoke has dissipated and the AQI is under 100, the following return to an exercise program can be started.
Week 1 & 2 – pasture turnout and slow hand walk daily for 20 minutes.
Week 3 – Brisk hand walk daily for 30 minutes.
Week 4 – Ride at a walk
Week 5 & 6 – Ride at a walk and trot
Week 7 – Return to regular exercise
We wanted to share this information to give everyone a little insight into why we are making the decisions we are for lesson plans and exercise regimens.