October 6, 2021
Hay Steamer is a Happy, Helpful Surprise at Starfish Equine Rescue
Supporting horse health and stretching the budget are Haygain benefits at the home of two OTTBs headed for next week's Thoroughbred Makeover.
By Kim Miller | Equestrian Writer
Fletcher & Snap
Fletcher, a 24-year-old Warmblood with Severe Equine Asthma, was first in line for Steamed Hay. Snap, the lesson pony who coughed immediately and excessively when exercising was next.
"Fletcher couldn't even eat hay when he first came two years ago," explains Abby. "The instant he got near hay, he started to wheeze." To get him off long-term steroid treatments, Abby and her team soaked his hay cubes and kept emergency nebulizer treatments at the ready. Fletcher recently had to have his bottom incisors extracted, making it even harder to eat. From the moment Abby presented the first batch of aromatic, freshly steamed hay, Fletcher "eats it all up... no problem."
Haygain steaming reduces up to 99% percent of the respirable irritants and allergens found even in the fresh and nutritionally good quality hay Abby insists on for Starfish's horses. These microscopic particles are triggers for horses with normal respiratory systems, where they can settle and cause inflammation and mucus production. For a horse with Severe Equine Asthma, like Fletcher, these particles exacerbate the already very difficult process of inhaling and exhaling. "Knock wood, he's not having any incidents of difficult breathing," says Abby. "We haven't needed the inhaler."
Steamed Hay has been a "game changer" for, Snap, too. In his case, it was wracking coughs as he began even the mild exercise required of an "up-down lesson pony." "We had tried allergy supplements, but they didn't do anything and he was just getting worse."
Clean Hay Is A Good Investment
Preventative measures to keep horses comfortable and healthy without medication are always the desired goal for long-term well-being. Going without steroids, inhaler treatments and allergy supplements also stretches Starfish's budget. "I always try to prevent those bigger medical expenses," says Abby of the money management side of the charitable 501c3 endeavour she founded in 2016.
High-quality forage and grain are staples of Abby's belief that "not taking shortcuts with horse health benefits the horses and the bottom line in the long run." Haygain Steamed Hay fits that approach and "magnifies" it, she adds.
The HG One Hay Steamer took a circuitous route to Starfish Equine Rescue. It arrived just a few months ago with the return of a handsome chestnut named Johnny. "Handsome" was not used to describe this Off-The-Track Thoroughbred when Abby rescued him from a kill pen in Louisiana 18 months ago.
"When Johnny got to New Jersey, he was so weak from muscle wasting, he almost didn't make the trip," Abby explains. "When the vet came to see him, his legs were swollen, he was starving to death. One of his hooves had a crack running all the way up to the coronary band." Initially, the farrier could not start to address the crack because Johnny was too weak to stand on three legs.
Johnny's Journey to Thoroughbred Makeover
After six months of good care, however, Johnny blossomed. So much so that he caught the attention of Starfish supporter Becky Huestis. She is the longtime assistant rider for John and Beezie Madden, the international show jumping team based in Cazenovia, NY.
Becky was looking for a horse of her own and saw something in Johnny's canter -- on a Facebook video -- that she liked. As Abby's friend, Becky was happy to support Starfish's good work at the same time. Johnny had been rescued from Louisiana along with another OTTB in equally bad shape and this horse, Fish, became Abby's project. Somewhere along the line, Abby and Becky decided to enter the Retired Racehorse Project's Thoroughbred Makeover with Fish and Johnny, respectively.
The Thoroughbred Makeover promotes second careers for ex-racehorses by showcasing their abilities in disciplines ranging from Barrel Racing to Show Hunters. It takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, Oct. 12-17. Fish and Johnny are entered in the Show Hunter division.
Having met Becky through the Maddens, the Haygain team was happy to support "Johnny's Journey" to the Makeover by donating the HG One Hay Steamer for his overall health. He didn't have specific respiratory or other problems once he'd begun serious training, and Becky appreciated Steamed Hay's help in keeping it that way.
Becky's hope to ride Johnny in the Makeover was nixed when she sustained a serious knee injury this past summer. She was mostly heartbroken for Johnny to miss his chance to shine on a national stage given the remarkable journey he'd undergone. Becky lobbied for and received the OK for Abby to campaign Johnny instead. Johnny returned to Starfish Equine Rescue to train with Abby, and the Hay Steamer went with him to keep him on consistently clean, healthy hay.
"I'd always wanted to try Haygain at the rescue because we have so many horses with breathing issues," Abby shares. Even with already high expectations, "I couldn't believe it when I took the lid off the steamer for the first batch of hay. It smells and looks so good! I already feed our horses really good hay and this intensifies it."
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