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Hay steaming and nebulizer bring an aged Mustang with Recurring Airway Obstruction to a state of “more go than whoa” and a remarkably low respiratory rate.

Hay steaming and nebulizer bring an aged Mustang with Recurring Airway Obstruction to a state of “more go than whoa” and a remarkably low respiratory rate.

by Kim F Miller

The 23-year-old Mustang, Legend, had a bargain basement price tag when his plight came to Alexis and Sam Conte’s attention. Removed from Bureau of Land Management Land in Nevada as a yearling, Legend was adopted by a West Virginia horseman who was 60 at the time.  Twenty years later, the man passed on and Legend’s life was in limbo.

He was given away, then landed in an “unfortunate” situation, Alexis recounts: a sales lot where trucks bound for slaughter houses in Mexico left every week.

She learned of the chestnut gelding who hailed from the White River Herd Management Area through friends and couldn’t turn away -- even when told of Legend’s Recurring Airway Obstruction and that “there wasn’t much that could be done about his breathing.” Even if it turned out Legend could never be ridden, “We decided that he was going to have a good ending.”

"Good ending” is a gross understatement for the nearly two years since the Contes took Legend on.

As predicted, riding him wasn’t in the cards because his breathing was so bad when he arrived. Respiratory issues affect a huge percentage of all horses and their most extreme manifestation, RAO, usually dictates life as the pasture ornament Alexis expected Legend to be.

She assumes that his RAO was never treated. Veterinary exams confirmed extensive and irreparable damage to his airways, one of the horse’s most delicate and vulnerable systems. But things turned around when Alexis found Haygain USA while searching for ways to make him more comfortable. She describes the Flexineb Equine Nebulizer and Haygain Hay Steaming as “game changers.”

The Flexineb nebulizer aerosolizes medications and saline solutions for easy delivery and maximum absorption in the respiratory tract. Legend was treated with EquiSilver Respiratory Solution, a chelated silver solution that kills infectious microorganisms by preventing the uptake of oxygen. The anti-inflammatory cortisone steroid, dexamethasone, was also delivered through the Flexineb to good effect. Combined with soaking Legend’s hay to dampen dust, Legend was breathing much easier.

That is until a new batch of hay arrived and he “had a super big crisis,” Alexis relays. “We thought, ‘That’s it! We’re going for the hay steamer.’” A “360-degree turnaround” was triggered within two to three days of starting on steamed hay, she reports. “His coughing completely disappeared.” High temperature steaming eliminates 98 percent of breathable participles found in even top quality, most expensive hay. Eradicating dust, fungi, mold and bacteria is good for all horses and can be a life changer for those with existing respiratory issues. 

The steamed hay diet combined with Flexineb treatments and respiratory supplements, Lung EQ and EquiPulmin, brought Legend back to a rideable state. Alexis and her husband enjoy trail riding near their East Putnam, Connecticut home, and Legend has become a star in this happy chapter of his life. Even at 23, “He has much more go than whoa!”

Sweet 16

Legend’s respiratory rate is a brag-worthy point of pride. Before receiving steamed hay, he took between 28 and 36 breaths a minute while at rest: considerably more that the 10 to 24 considered normal. Since adding steamed hay, that’s dropped to 16. “I’ve posted that news all over the place!” Alexis reports.

Using the Flexineb after a ride as needed and providing daily steamed hay are steps Alexis is happy to take, even though they have to fit into a schedule busy with full-time careers. On top of that, Alexis and her husband board their horses at a public stable while they finish construction on their own home barn. With the stable owner’s cooperation, the couple picks up Legend’s hay at the barn, brings it home and steams each day’s batch after work while getting ready to ride. “We throw it in our Haygain hay bag, bring it to the barn and the stable owner feeds it for us.”          

“Some people say, ‘Geez, you have to do all that?’,” Alexis shares. “But, it’s not hard and the benefits are big! I’m so thankful I found the steamer and the Flexineb.”        

Legend is likely thankful Alexis found him, too. She has a soft spot for all horses and especially Mustangs. She’s a proud member of the Mustang Heritage Foundation that promotes adoption and lifelong good care of these American Wild Horses removed from public lands. “Everyone should adopt a Mustang!” Alexis asserts.

For more information on adopting, visit

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