Ask Horse Journal: 12/06

I have been doing cross-country schooling in the Easyboot Bares and have noticed no difference in his performance. I did not like jumping in the Boa boots, as they rubbed and turned on the hoof. I think it is important to distinguish between the suitability of the different boots when it comes to jumping and speed work. Do you have any comments’

Horse Journal Response

Easyboot Bares are definitely the most lightweight hoof boot out there, with a secure fit on most feet, so the least likely to cause problems, but boots add weight to the horse’s legs and even the best of them change the sensory input they are getting regarding hoof position on the ground. It’s rare to see a horse whose gait does not change in some way when using boots. In addition, the added thickness of the boot could be a problem for horses that do not habitually jump cleanly, and if the boot is not carefully fitted to the foot you could have problems with it slipping on landing. It’s also true that many horses learn to compensate for their boots extremely well. Rather than an absolute admonition against jumping in hoof boots, let’s just say that a strong caution is in order.

Barn Conversion

Would a factory hen house converted into a stable be likely to cause respiratory problems, coughs in horses’ There is a smell of birds in the lobby, and a strong ammonia smell of horses in the stable. Is this an acceptable option for stabling a horse, or should we look elsewhere’

Horse Journal Response

I think you better look elsewhere. Regardless of what the building was used for in the past, you are describing conditions where it sounds like ventilation, and probably hygiene as well, is far from optimal. Ammonia alone can be a nonspecific respiratory-tract irritant, and there is the potential for specific allergic reactions to develop to bird related allergens.

Allergy Help

My 18-year-old mare has seasonal allergies (her symptoms include sneezing, runny eyes, some headshaking) but recently developed more serious breathing difficulties. My vet suggested a blood test to determine just what she’s allergic to and when the results came back I was shocked to find that she’s supposedly allergic to a bunch of things: orchard grass, timothy and molasses among them. I’m wondering how accurate this type of allergy test is compared to the skin testing. And has she been allergic to these things all along or did she just develop new allergies’

Horse Journal Response

Allergy testing is a difficult subject. The bottom line is that there is no way to prove the test results are accurate without actually performing a challenge study with the things that are supposed to be allergens and documenting an allergic reaction. That said, skin testing is believed to be the gold standard for respiratory allergies. Blood testing by IgE antibodies (not IgG) is generally felt to be the most sensitive, but there’s always a possibility of crossreaction and both false positives and negatives do occur. If the blood testing was looking at IgG levels instead of IgE, it’s meaningless for things that the horse eats. IgG antibodies to foods are common and not associated with allergy symptoms.

Controlling and identifying allergies requires more than just the testing. For example, if you horse’s pattern is clearly seasonal, but she gets molasses and those hay types yearround, it’s highly unlikely that they are the primary allergens.

Oat Hay

Is there any reason not to feed oat hay’ Someone told me it was poisonous to horses.

Horse Journal Response

Oat hay has a tendency to accumulate nitrates in higher amounts than other grasses. Nitrates are a normal compound in plants, which convert them into protein. However, if nitrate soil levels are too high and/or during periods of drought and prolonged cloudiness, the nitrates will not be converted efficiently and can build up to toxic levels. Nitrate in the horse’s intestinal tract is converted to nitrite, which can interfere with oxygenation of the blood in high levels while lower level, chronic ingestion may affect thyroid function (decreased).

Oat hay is doubly dangerous since not only can it accumulate nitrate, it also contains enzymes that can convert it to the more toxic nitrite if the hay is wet. Oat hay harvested after it was cut, then rained on, may have higher toxicity, and even soaking oat hay (e.g. for horses that have trouble chewing or have allergies) can cause it to convert nitrate to nitrites.


In our October 2006 rain-rot article, the contact information for EQyss Micro-Tek Shampoo and Gel, our recommended medicated shampoo system, was incorrect. The correct contact information is, 800-526-7469.


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