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Discussion Starter #1
I have an opportunity to get a "bombproof" husband horse that will be a babysitter on the trails. Problem is, this horse has heaves. Because of this he falls into my price range and is exactly what I'm looking for. A calm, level-headed horse that I can use as a babysitter when I take newbies out.

I'm wondering if this horse could do regular trails, during the summer, as long as they are calm and slow riding. He would only be used for the slow scenic trail ride. Nothing harder they a couple of hours max.

My vet seems to think this shouldn't be a problem and says it responds well to treatment when there is a flare-up, and the maintenance is basically keeping him in the pasture (away from barn dust) and keeping the hay wet.

Has anyone had any experience with heaves? Does buying a horse with this ailment just sound silly? I'm kinda lost on what to do.
 

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As long as you understand that heaves {aka COPD} is progressive and worsens in time....
Some horses progress quickly, some very slowly..
Much has to do with when diagnosed and the treatment done/used and followed since.
Climate has much to do with how the animal handles this ailment.
Hot, humid like weather in Florida is brutal for many afflicted animals..
A drier environment, fresh air not dusty or polluted heavily, reducing irritants all help to slow the progress but to my knowledge nothing cures or stops heaves.
Depending upon why the horse developed heaves would also be a reason and catalyst of progression known.

Depending upon what amount of money this animal is being sold for....
I would not be spending very much knowing in all probability he is worsening daily and find it interesting he is being sold in winter which is a time of least seen issues...beware.

A careful exam by your vet {do not skip a PPE simple wellness exam} to listen for scarring of the lungs is needed. A must!!
A visual exam looking for the belly line of breathing issue is a must.
My understanding is it is not inhaling that is the problem, it is exhaling that is the problem and the force and difficulty getting a air exchange happening.
No relaxed breathing = no horse able to do anything but stand in one place and seriously struggle for air....this is where you will get to in time...the question though is is this where you are now and the animal is drugged enough daily to hide symptoms of how far along, severe it is and winter cooler temps, drier atmosphere makes me wonder...
Proceed with caution and I would be having a exam by the vet to see what you can...
馃惔...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
wow, thank you ... this is kinda exactly the forethought I needed to hear. My vet didn't bring any of this up and seemed kinda unconcerned about the situation, but I was having that "intuition" that it was worse than her shrugged shoulders suggested.

The horse is $1300. That is pretty cheap for my area (still a nice chunk of change for me though), especially for a beginner's horse. I knew heaves was incurable, but I didn't realize it gets progressively worse over time. She explained it to me like it was asthma and would need simple treatment during flare-ups and preventative maintence.

(Note, this is not her horse, this is just a phone call asking her about heaves and advice, she has not seen the horse)
 

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Some reading material with explanation and where does this go and how to suspend the onset of worsening conditions....


The fact your vet did not counsel you better makes me concerned...
Heaves is not something to ignore, but to be informed and proactive about for best outcome as long as is possible for the animal...
Drugs can be inexpensive to expensive depending upon origin and progression this takes...

Bottom line though, is if the horse is confirmed and known as having heaves...
I would pass on a animal that is limited in what you can do and the time of a riding partner shared you face.
$1,300 for a known diagnosed horse with heaves.... :oops: not in my yard.

Please think long and hard after reading those articles and many others of factual information from well-respected resources are easily found on the internet.
馃惔...
 

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Heaves are one of my deal breakers - I will never buy a horse with pre-existing heaves, ever. My previous BO had several horses on her property with heaves, varying from younger (~10 years old) to older (up to 30 years old). The progressed cases of heaves are heartbreaking and expensive, especially when you run out of options to treat the symptoms themselves and are stuck with a horse that can barely breathe (which ultimately has to be euthanized).

If you do consider this horse, I encourage you to research heaves and the treatments (and their related costs). This $1,300 is actually much more expensive horse once you factor in treatment. You would likely save money by spending more on a horse without heaves (or other pre-existing conditions).
 

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I have a horse with heaves and it is VERY manageable, if you can figure out what works. My BO also has an older horse with heaves, who was out on a long term lease, and his did progress over the years, but his condition was vastly different from my own horse (indoor arena, standard feed, constant work whilst in heaving state ... he found out about this after). Just to give perspective, my horse was competing at 2nd level dressage and working 4-5 days per week without issue, but we caught things early and promptly executed an action plan.

So I think much would depend on what stage this horse is at. My own horse was absolutely terrible when he first started showing heaves: wheezing, excessive coughing, even at the walk. I though for sure he would never improve. But, I ended up moving him to a well ventilated barn with great hay (square bales), changed his feed, monitored his condition and made sure I had the proper medication on hand. Your main concern is reducing frequency of flare ups.

First thing is that hay needs to be good! Dusty hay will make things worse and if your horse is on a roundbale all day, he will breathe in the spores and that will flare him up! My horse has been on great quality square bales for several years now, not soaked and 24/7 turnout.

Nutrition is also important. My horse was previous on feed that was higher in sugars and omega 6,which over all just wasn't good for him. I did some reading and switched him to a vitamin/mineral supplement which I fed with some soaked hay cubes and added some flax (at the time). Omega 6 is necessary, but it is more pro-inflammatory than neutral in the absence of Omega-3. Upping the Omega 3 and lowering the Omega 6 was better for a inflammatory condition such as heaves. I also added MSM for the same reason.

Because I'm a nerd and wanted to log conditions to see when my horse was more at risk for flaring up, I took his respiration rate at relatively the same time of day, regularly for at least a year and then at least a few times a month for the 2nd and third year. This would be specific for your horse, but the patterns I found were that he would flare up when: the weather started getting colder, after vaccinations, dry/hot summer days, when he became unfit and if we had a less stellar bale of hay. In general, the number of flare ups went down over the 3 years and his respiration average went from around the mid 20s the first year, to about 18, and last I checked it was around 16 (in the norm), so it did go down as we figured out how to avoid flare ups. He was also seemingly better off when kept in work, which the vet had also suggested as therapeutic conditioning for the lungs and I'd imagine preventing extra weight on the lungs too. The 4th year, we briefly moved to another barn with different practices/ conditions and his respiration went back up a bit and coughing started up some in the morning. That place used sand in the stalls and fed a different feed (purina) that we tried, but it just didn't work for us. After moving back, we have had no issues since.

Now, you absolutely should have the adequate medication at hand for bad flare ups. Just as with an allergy attack (essentially what it is), you want to slow down the inflammation to prevent/reduce any damage from occurring. This is essential and always have that medication handy, when needed. But I think one mistake people make is using medication TOO much. Glucocorticoid medication, such as "Dex" is a synthetic corticosteroid to mimic what your horse's cortisol already does. Basically, it goes in to enhance the levels of defense against the inflammation when the inflammation is just too much for the body to handle. However, when it becomes a frequent 'crutch', your horse becomes at risk for what is called suppression of the hypothalamic鈥損ituitary鈥揳drenal (HPA) axis or in other words, adrenal insufficiency. Essentially, the horse's adrenal gland, which produces the cortisol (anti-inflammatory efforts), can no longer hold a candle to the synthetic levels and 'burns out'. This is also why steroids need to be tapered, by the way. The body now becomes reliant on the medication to fight the inflammation, even at lower levels. I don't mention this to say medication is bad, because it is actually a godsend for managing the condition. But instead, I mention it because I think many are now aware that "steroids are hard on the body", but not necessarily how nor that there is potential of them being counter productive to the very condition they are trying to manage.

So when should it be used? I used it most frequently at the beginning stages, when flare ups were at their strongest. If I saw heave lines, excessive movement of the accessory muscles, heard choking type sounds or if I otherwise had the bad feeling. These are all times I would use medication then and there. Otherwise, my vet had suggested some alternative methods to help move mucous and calm the allergies by trying to trot the horse (on lunge) very briefly to try and move some of the mucous and also take away any potential allergens, meaning out doors for us and no brushing that would lift up dust. If it were warm, I'd even hose off my horse to lock down any dust, and I also used oral cough syrups such as Respi-free by Omega Alpha or Zev. The main thing is to your best to stop the allergies from getting triggered and use your own judgement. If your unsure, use the medication.

As for how things turned out, It has been 2 years since my horse has had any flare up at all (6 years since he was diagnosed). He occasionally coughs in the mornings, but then he is good for the day. He is retired now (due to another reason), but I am happy his breathing is well off. My Bo's horse, who is much more advanced in heaves, has her struggles and she has gotten better since she has been back with the BO and stuff is being managed better for her condition, but I unfortunately think because she has had years and years of little to no management, that the damage is done and her condition isn't going to get much better like my horse's did. That being said, the vet still recommends my BO that some exercise is the best therapy for the lungs.

SO, to directly answer your question, I think the horse you are looking at could be a good fit and a light trail ride here and there should not be a problem unless the horse is (1) critically advanced and (2) vastly triggered by the spring/summer spores etc. But, you need to take into account whether you can adequately manage the environmental conditions for this horse and if that is something you want to take on in comparison to a horse with no issues.
 

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i have a 15 year old gelding with heaves. At the moment its died down a bit and i always treat it with dexasome as well as soaking his hay!
 

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Equine Asthma (that's the name for it now, heaves is outdated) is very manageable, provided the previous owners didn't let it get bad. It is NOT a progressive or degenerative condition. The lung damage that can result from uncontrolled asthma is largely irreversible, but if it's managed well it's avoidable.

Horses with asthma can still be worked and compete so trail rides shouldn't be out of the question, broadly speaking. You need to be prepared to change your routine. That means how you feed hay, your hay supplier, housing, bedding options, ect. Can you soak or steam hay? If you are somewhere that freezes in the winter, can you still manage it then? Can you feed them separately if needed? Can you ensure they have as much turnout as possible, and a well ventilated barn if they have to be inside? I had my move my asthmatic off the roundbale and he lives alone now and gets compressed square bales($$), no soaking since it's impractical in the winter here. I also give OmegaAlpha's RespiFree.

You don't want to be relying on medication to manage them on a daily basis. Systemic meds like Dex should be avoided until all other options are exhausted. Do get your vet to give you a prescription for inhalers (bronchodialators + steroids) and get a mask to administer it with. Having inhalers on-hand can be a literal life saver when they have a flare up. Inhaled steroids don't have the same side effects as systemic steroids. It can be beneficial to have a BAL done if you have trouble managing it to see what type you are dealing with, as some respond to different medication combinations than others.

I wouldn't buy a horse knowing they had asthma, but it's not the worst condition out there if you catch it early and manage it well.

I did some reading and switched him to a vitamin/mineral supplement which I fed with some soaked hay cubes and added some flax (at the time).
What are you feeding? I've been looking at other oral options for managing it. The one I've seen that's recommended, Aleira, isn't available where I am.
 

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What are you feeding? I've been looking at other oral options for managing it. The one I've seen that's recommended, Aleira, isn't available where I am
I'm feeding Horsetech's custom vitamin/ mineral supplement powder, which I've stuck with for a while. My horse is also a chub chub, so in addition to being better balanced, it has helped manage his weight beautifully and he likes the taste of it. Really great company that cares about their customers and looks into the research and what the market desires for their products!

Prior, I'll admit that his nutrition was horrible as I had no sweet clue about nutrition and just went with whatever the barn I boarded with offered, so I think he was likely lacking in many areas nutritionally. Certainly, the excess sugars/ starch and high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio were part of the problem, along with all the environmental factors.

The last few years, I haven't really had to feed anything specific for COPD/Heaves, because my horse no longer seems to need the extra help. Looking at Aleira, it has Omega-3 (DHA form) in it, antioxidants, vitamin C and MSM. When I did focus my efforts on feeding to manage COPD symptoms, I used MSM and Omega-3 sources, specifically. Both are fairly cheap to buy separately compared to buying Aleira. Vitamin C is now sufficient in his vit/min supplement, so I'd say if you could find a general fed to cover those basis, it is not something you'd need to supply additionally. Not sure what they are using for antioxidants.

I used to use flax for the omega-3. It's not DHA, but I'm not convinced the DHA makes that much of a difference for this, statistically. I do remember reading a study or two back then on the benefits of flax for heaves. In any case, flax has a good ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. It's been a while, but I think around 1/4 cup, though you may want to double check that. Make sure if ground, that it is stabilized or at least very very fresh (it oxidizes very quickly).

For MSM, my vet had recommended using a dosage of 10 000 mg per day and upping the dose to 20 000mg only during flare ups or times when they could be likely.

Otherwise, I used Respi-free and Lung flush(Omega Alpha brand) on occasion, during the tough times. used lung flush consistently (given by syringe) until the bottle was gone, then occasional use of respi-free, when needed. My horse loved the taste, so he thought it was a treat and would automatically come over and put his mouth on the syringe for me haha. Zev was also useful.
 

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Heaves is actually a very generic term given to horses with breathing issues...
When you start doing the in-depth research you find there are sub-sections of the broad term heaves and each is a special living condition, treatment and prognosis.
The bottom line to me is Jolly caught her horses ailment at onset, so took action immediately, adjusted her animals lifestyle, now feeds special, houses special and still has medications on hand for outbreaks.
Apuetso also seems to have had to alter living conditions, foods fed and how they are fed...
It is also climate triggered and both those posters live in some part of Canada and yes, that is far different than here in Florida and pretty sure different again in your area KBA6.
Only you know how much you want to change routines, how much you can change routine to offer optimum conditions for this animal to forever live in...and what your expense account can afford in "special".
Most by me can not make enough adjustments to benefit the horse diagnosed with whatever you want to call "heaves"...
Every year I see many animals "free", take them if you live up north where ailments seem to not flare as badly.
Since heat, humidity, mold spores and types of mold among other things vary greatly climate to climate....

Unless the animal was mine first and developed this...I would not willingly take on a animal already diagnosed, I would not.
That is just more than what I would knowingly saddle myself with and be expected to pay $1,300 dollars for that pleasure when to look a bit more I could find a horse with none of this ailment known...
Going trail riding when foliage changes around every bend, every location can be a new set of irritants...I just would not take on a confirmed horse and the rigors of work, living condition and extra expenses you must face..
I'm just being honest and watched to many suffer here in Florida when all the right things were done and still the animal progressed in ailment to need euthanasia to ease the suffering.
4 years from a slight cough to a hole I dug for my friends animal...no, just no is my experience.
馃惔...
 

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One of my old mares had the beginning of heaves. Her's was very mild. Depending on the price of the horse and knowing it will get worse over time, it wouldn't bother me especially for the right price and knowing you're not going to be working him a ton. My vet told me to soak her hay and keep her outside as much as possible. Before she was out during the day and inside at night. I turned her out 24/7 unless the weather was bad. I soaked her hay and grain so there was no dust from that. I also would hose down her sawdust whenever she came inside just to knock down some of the dust. I was still able to work her the same, I rode her almost everyday and would haul to a few local barrel races. So it's definitely manageable, just a bit more work and maintenance. But if the price is right, I'd so go for it!!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I appreciate all the advice. I'm glad I came here to ask because I have a lot more to think about and consider. I've been asking around my barn and club and it all sounds about the same. Some cases are easily manageable, others are terrible.

You all have given me a lot of great information.
 

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I didn't read all the replies, so forgive me if this is repetitive, but as you said in your last reply, not all heaves are the same. There is a tendency to call all respiratory issues heaves, but in my experience, some are not true heaves.

My daughter's horse came to us a little over 5 years ago and he was boarded for the first few months. He began to cough pretty badly in winter. The vet called it heaves, and basically said to just keep him outside and see. My daughter's coach said not to ride him. I tried Dex, but the coughing returned, and Dex isn't great for them. After consulting a different vet, we put him on Ventipulmin for 28 days. I had been steaming his hay all winter too, and once we were able to move him, we kept him out 24/7. The 28 days on Ventipulmin cleared him up completely, and many years later, he has not had a recurrence. Not even so much as a coughing fit. She has competed in hunter/jumper and is now doing dressage with him. No issue whatsoever.

So it's hard to say, but if I were in your position, I'd ask a lot of questions to the seller about what they did to treat the heaves. If they didn't really do anything, then it's possible this is a case that could be resolved. If they already tried the usual treatments (Dex, ventipulmin, a nebulator, steaming or wetting the hay) and were unsuccessful, it's unlikely you will have better success. And of course, get a vet to listen to his lungs and provide an opinion, but make sure it's a vet who knows something about respiratory disorders. My vet was basically ready to assume my daughter's horse would never get better, but luckily, another vet was willing to try something else. Now the horse is healthy, and he is the best horse a girl could ever want so it would have been a terrible shame not to have bought him. And btw, I don't wet or steam his hay anymore, but he is still in turnout 24/7 with access to an open barn. I make sure he doesn't get cold and wet due to his age (he's 21 now). I have found that he can get a bit of a runny nose when he is cold and wet so to prevent him developing issues, I blanket him as much as I need to, but he still lives outside.
 

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I didn't read all the replies, so forgive me if this is repetitive, but as you said in your last reply, not all heaves are the same. There is a tendency to call all respiratory issues heaves, but in my experience, some are not true heaves.
This is a very good point! Heaves is one of those conditions that is a general term for reoccurring respiratory distress and I imagine, as a vet it can often be hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the respiratory distress. I also know of a few horses who were diagnosed with heaves, but it was apparent later on after trying some antibiotics that it was due to infection of some kind. Another horse I know has respiratory distress that has evolved over the years, but rooted from trachea scarring (from an accident).
 
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