Steamed hay is a must in the stable of Grand Prix dressage rider and veterinarian Dr. Wren Burnley and her husband, FEI trainer and rider JT Burnley.
Along with her veterinary degree and many years experience caring for performance horses, Wren is an asthmatic herself and understands all too well the impact of a compromised respiratory system on an athlete. That’s why she and JT embraced Haygain steamed hay several years ago. They use it for their own and client horses at their Wrenwood Dressage in Fulton, Kentucky.
Any horse presenting symptoms on the equine asthma spectrum stands to benefit from a switch to clean, irritant-free hay created during Haygain’s 60-minute patented steaming process. At Wrenwood, steamed hay is especially key for middle-aged horses competing at the upper levels of dressage. By “middle aged,” Wren means horses that are just hitting their peak from a training and performance standpoint: 10-year-olds and up, generally speaking.
“Just as in older people, older horses have lungs that have seen a lot more respiratory challenges,” the United States Dressage Federation Gold Medalist and American Association of Equine Practitioners member explains. “When you look at their respiratory tracts, you see they already have a start on scarring and the tissue has lost some of its elasticity.” This is normal in healthy horses performing at their peak, like Fuerst Falco and Furst Tanzer, top FEI steeds in the Burnleys’ barn.
With even the earliest scarring and loss of elasticity, dust, spores and other airborne irritants can trigger inflammation in the airway and lungs, compromising comfort and performance.
Wren also recommends steamed hay for clients’ horses in various phases of life, and not just for respiratory health. Skin allergies, lack of appetite and a tendency toward colic are additional conditions for which she’s seen steamed hay work wonders. “Since I started to use a Haygain hay steamer, I have seen many changes in horses for the better.” And that’s not to mention her own easier breathing. “As an asthmatic athlete myself, I cannot stick my nose into a regular bale of hay, but I can in a bale that has come out of the Haygain machine.” A recent survey found that Wren is not alone, when it estimated that one in four people who work with horses have some sort of respiratory condition.
Steaming hay with Haygain is common practice among elite equestrians throughout Europe and beyond. Horse health savvy owners throughout the United States are swelling the ranks of believers. The Haygain process was developed almost a decade ago in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, England. Housed in a sealed, thermally-efficient, purpose-built chest, Haygain’s patented spike manifold steams hay from the inside out by injecting steam evenly throughout the bale.Temperatures rise to at least 212° Fahrenheit as the 60-minute cycle removes airway irritants and contaminants.
Extensive scientific research has proven Haygain hay steamers dramatically reduce respirable dust particles and kill mold, bacteria, fungal spores and mites, while retaining the hay’s nutritional value.
In addition, the process adds water, a digestive plus, and palatability to the hay. The enticing scent of fresh hay is a bonus.