3 min read

Steamed Hay: A Literal Life Saver for Whendy Godich's Horse

Kim F Miller
Equestrian writer

“Haygain steamed hay saved my horse's life." According to owner Whendy Godich, there's no other explanation for her horse's transformation from "nearly dropping dead" of Recurrent Airway Obstruction to the mare's easy breathing today.

Her life is changed," Whendy reports of Sunni. "There's no more coughing, she can breathe."

In the summer of 2018, the Arabian/Appaloosa cross started coughing frequently. Several vet exams resulted in a diagnosis of "heaves." That nickname for RAO derives from the audible effort to exhale that's required of horses with this condition on the extreme end of the Equine Asthma Spectrum.

"It got so bad that, if I hadn't had steroids on hand, she would have dropped dead," recalls Whendy. Having owned, cared for and loved Sunni since the 10-year-old mare was four months old, that was an unimaginable scare and one that occurred too many times.

When she's not at their Pittsburgh-area home barn, Whendy monitors Sunni and Sunni's half-sister with a baby monitor in her home. She doesn't miss a thing. Coughing had not been an issue until that summer, suspiciously concurrent with a hydraulic fracturing, aka "fracking," enterprise just a few miles upwind of her home and barn. "Right after that Sunni started to get really bad with her breathing."

Whendy Godich with her horse Sunni

"Heaves is horrible," Whendy continues. At her worst moments, Sunni was "swaying, gasping for air, and looking like she would go down any moment. I have asthma myself, so I knew what she was going through."

The anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone was the first treatment in those dark moments. That resolved the life-threatening episodes, but steroids are not a safe or affordable long-term solution. Medicated cough syrup and Tri-Hist antihistamine also provided temporary relief, but were not sustainable treatments either. All were prohibitively expensive: Whendy recalls many months of $500 bills just for medication.

Whendy had already tried everything from an environmental standpoint: keeping the barn meticulously clean and experimenting with different types and sources of hay. Permanent solutions eluded her until Haygain high-temperature hay steaming turned up in her research efforts. After huge outlays for medicine, the initial cost for a half-bale steamer was a stretch, Whendy admits. Haygain's payment plan made it possible and it turned out to be a life-saving investment for Sunni.

By steaming hay at temperatures up to 212 degrees, the Haygain steaming process rids hay of nearly all inhalable irritants that are the biggest cause of all conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum. There's no cure for Recurrent Airway Obstruction that represents the spectrum's severe end, or the more common Inflammatory Airway Disease at the spectrum's milder end. But quality of life for horses with these diseases can be greatly improved with careful management.

"Her life is changed," Whendy reports of Sunni. "There's no more coughing, she can breathe." For fellow owners of horses with these respiratory diseases, she urges: "Eventually, if you love your horses, you are going to have to steam their hay. Things won't get better without it."

Haygain hay steamer used in horse health management

How can Haygain help?

Haygain is committed to improving equine health through research and innovation in the respiratory and digestive health issues. Developed by riders, for riders, we understand the importance of clean forage in maintaining the overall well-being of the horse. Our hay steamers are recommended by many of the world’s leading riders, trainers and equine veterinarians. Find out more by clicking on one of the links below.


  • Haygain HG 2000

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