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Marcella Gruchalak


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Equine Mythbusters: Horses Can’t Breathe Through Their Mouths

On our sister site, Horse Nation, the Mythbuster Monday series is always popular as we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Can horses breathe through their mouths?

Each Monday, Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Can horses breathe through their mouths? Do different bits in a horse’s mouth hinder breathing? What happens if their nose is stuffed? Read further to find out!

Meghan O’Donoghue and Palm Crescent. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Myth: Horses can’t breathe through their mouths

Myth or Fact: Fact


The upper respiratory tract begins at the horse’s nose and runs down the back of the throat to the trachea and then to the lungs. The soft palate separates the nasal cavities from the oral cavities. This makes horses obligate nasal breathers. The epiglottis sits on top of the soft palate and blocks air flow from the mouth to the trachea and lungs.

An article by Camille Saute of Equisense compares the soft palate of a human versus a horse. While a human’s soft palate ends as a drop, horses have a longer soft palate that closes the connection between the nose and digestive tract. Therefore, horses can only breathe out of their noses.

While this may seem like it would cause issues during activity, horses have different ways they obtain the amount of oxygen needed. One of the ways horses can capture oxygen is by contracting their spleens. When doing this, they release red blood cells into the bloodstream which allows the capture of more oxygen.

Buck Davidson and Carlevo. Photo by Shelby Allen.

According to Grace Eire in her article, the upper respiratory tract only being connected to the nostrils aids in the prevention of inhaling and choking on food particles. However, it is a downfall when horses are in respiratory distress because they can not use their mouth to aid in breathing.

Dr. David Marlin, an exercise physiologist, states in his article that horses can only breathe from their noses. This is because the soft palate completely separates the mouth from the airway. When horses breathe while working, they breathe in time with their strides. A cantering horse takes one breath for every stride. The inability to use the mouth to breathe makes this important. If the horse can not get his breaths to match his strides he may become anxious or unsettled.

Graphic via FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips.

During exercise, when humans begin to get winded, they tend to start to breathe out of their mouths. Because horses can not do this, they adjust their breathing to their gait When going from a trot to canter to gallop, instead of breathing faster horses tend to breathe deeper. The longer the stride, the more time the horse has to fill his lungs.

David J. Mellor, PhD and professor of animal welfare science, states in an article by The Horse, that tack can affect a horse’s breathing and feelings of breathlessness. Horses are obligate nasal breathers but factors in the mouth can interfere with the breathing from the nose. Mouth-gaping due to bit pain puts the horse in positions that make it more difficult for him to breath from his nose.

Daniela Moguela and Cecelia. Photo by Shelby Allen.

A horse that gives to the bit or is bit-free can hold the soft palate down onto the tongue allowing optimal breathing from the nose. The slightest gape from fighting the bit can make it more difficult for a horse to breathe.

An equestrian who rides on a tight rein cramps a horse’s head and neck into a position that also decreases nasal breathing.

After diving into the research, it appears that horses can only breathe through their noses. Ill fitting bits can cause a horse to gape his mouth open, causing a decrease in air flow to the lungs. While exercising horses have some “tricks” they use to maintain optimal air flow through their nose. The sync their breathing to their strides and/or use spleen contractions to increase oxygenation.

FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips are an excellent way to ensure your horse can breathe easy during work and exercise by providing support for the nasal passages and thus allowing less restricted and greater air volume to pass into the lungs. Dr. David Marlin talks on this topic in the videos below:

Do you have an equine myth you’d like Horse Nation to tackle? If so, send it their way! Email your suggestions to [email protected]. Put Mythbuster Monday in your subject line.

Best of HN: The Best Horse Related COVID-19 Memes on the Internet

No matter what station we’re watching on television or which social media site we’re browsing, COVID-19 is being discussed everywhere. It’s global, it’s severe and we’re all worried in some way, shape or form. However, as Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls once said, “You have to laugh at yourself sometimes, because you’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t.”

With that in mind, scroll on to see a compilation of the funniest horse-related memes and post updates we’ve come across that can give us a chuckle as we deal with this pandemic.



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Wash your hands! #covid #covid2019 #washyourhands

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Stay safe, stay healthy and go riding!

Best of HN: Horse Gals Are the Equivalent of Car Guys

Horse gals are a special breed of people. We LOVE our horses and we’re adamant about that. You can’t change our minds, you won’t change our ways and you sure as heck won’t last long in our lives if you try! It’s actually quite comical how dedicated we are to the lifestyle and what we’ll pass up in our lifetime to be around our horses.

The same goes for car guys. If they’re not at work, they’re in the garage for hours doing god-knows-what. Like horse gals with their horses, car guys use this extremely expensive outlet to keep them out of trouble.

If you can’t see the correlation between horse gals and car guys, here are seven reasons that should shed some light on the subject!

1. We don’t have time for anything else

As crazy horse gals, we only have one interest in life, our horses. We eat, sleep and breathe horses. As adolescents and teenagers we didn’t show any interest in dating or partying. We wanted to be at the barn or a horse show atop our trusty steeds.

Now, into our adult years, you’ll continue to find us utilizing our free time doing anything horse related. Some think that they can change our ways, that we’ll slowly migrate to weekends at the movies or something — really, I have no idea what people who aren’t into horses do with their weekends — but I can tell you, we as horse gals will cut you out of our lives so quickly if you try to pull a stunt like that.

Car guys — same deal. Do these gentlemen even exist? They’re like big foot, you never see them. This is because they’re always in the garage. These guys don’t even have time to leave the garage to feed themselves. Thank goodness for Grub Hub, Uber Eats and pizza delivery. Otherwise I’m convinced they’d starve themselves trying to loosen the same bolt they’ve been working on for the last five hours.

This brings me into the next point:

2. You won’t find us at the bar on the weekend

This reason is related to the reason above. Horse gals’ time is spent with our horses. On Friday night, bring the beer to us, because we’re not going anywhere. Oftentimes we’ll find ourselves doing nothing productive atop our horses while we’re two sheets to the wind on our craft beers (this is all meant in good fun, so save the lecture on drinking and riding for another day).

On the weekend, car guys are spending their time in the garage with their cars. Their Friday nights are just a tad different though. Instead of drinking craft beers, they’re slugging something like Miller Lite and then they get to a point where they break out the cheap whiskey. They’re so classy (but who are we to judge?).

3. We’re broke

Maybe the reason you won’t find us at the bar on the weekends is this: WE ARE REALLY BROKE. We don’t have two nickels to rub together, but we’re happy.

Car guys’ expense list looks something like this: upgraded turbo, front mount, tuning program, blow off valve, full exhaust. What this list boils down to is dollar signs. While they’re spending all their money on their highly modified, now unreliable cars, horse gals are spending their money similarly.

We buy our horses the nicest tack, most expensive blankets, quick wraps and any other therapy or performance enhancing equipment we find to be beneficial. Our horses have a chiropractor, massage therapist and farrier while our bodies ache and our nails are a mess.

Within 24 hours of getting paid, we have spent all of our wages, and then some, on car parts or horse related items. With $0.19 remaining in our bank accounts and our credit cards maxed out, it’s hard to believe we still scrape up money to bring booze to the barn and order takeout.

4. We use profane language

This is pretty straight forward. Our horses are quirky or just downright jerks at times. You’ll find that horse gals have a colorful vocabulary — especially when we’ve been chasing our horse around the pasture for 40 minutes so we can go for a relaxing trail ride. You may also hear this vocabulary when we’re being chased in the pasture by the mini at the barn. Regardless of the situation, our mouths can give any sailor a run for his or her money.

Car guys are a few levels higher in this category than us. While they are screaming profane language at the top of their lungs because they still can’t get that darn bolt loose, they are also throwing whatever tool is in their hand or near by. There goes the 10mm socket — and the can of PB Blaster  — and the air gun. They’ve thrown everything in their vicinity but the profane language just keeps coming out.

5. Some of us like pretty while others like fast

Moving away from the ugly vocabulary that comes out of our mouths, we’ll now speak of pretty.

Horse gals either perform in events where the horse needs to be well groomed and look eye appealing, or we perform in events where the timer is our only judge. Western Pleasure — slow and pretty. Barrel racing — fast, gritty and the horse doesn’t have to be clean.

It’s the same deal with car guys. They’re either, “all go, no show,” or, “all show, no go.” Some car guys are more concerned with stance, wheels and exterior appearance while others could have a rusty shell with a mean motor build that puts out some serious horsepower.

6. If you’re not seasoned, don’t touch our ride!

We can both agree on this point, and we take this point seriously. Whether we like pretty or fast, if horses or cars are not your lifestyle, don’t think you’re going to come in and take our most prized possession for a spin.

If there’s one thing that gives us horse gals an anxiety attack, it’s watching an inexperienced rider yank on our horse’s mouth and give him unclear cues. It really grinds our gears.

While I use the phrase “grinds our gears” figuratively, this very situation is one of the reasons an inexperienced driver is not allowed to joy ride a car guy’s vehicle. With the amount of modification done to the vehicle, don’t think an inexperienced driver is going to get in and ride the clutch or grind the gears.

7. We know others by their ride

Whether referring to a horse gal or a car guy we are both guilty of this — we have no idea what your name is. If you say Megan, Jim, Kelsey, Mike or any name, we’re going to say we don’t know the person.

If you say, the girl on the fast black Quarter Horse or the guy that drives the ten second Civic, then we’re like, “oh, yeah, we know that person.”

Don’t take it personally, our thought process just revolves around horses or cars.

Not a person in this world can change us. We’re happy being poor, drinking beer and talking like a sailor. We embrace our time consuming hobbies — and the tainted image that can come with them. If anyone needs us, they know where to find us. Until then Horse Nation, go riding!