Breaths of Fresh Air: How Lauren Billys Protected Her Horses’ Respiratory Health During CA Wildfires

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy. Photo by Kim Miller.

Like most horse owners in Northern California, Haygain ambassador Lauren Billys Shady has been through the ringer during a wildfire season that started early and shows no signs of letting up. In late August, she and her husband had to evacuate their home. Lauren’s own horses and several in her care at Lauren Billys Eventing had to move twice. They first evacuated to a facility relatively close by on the Monterey Peninsula. After a second evacuation notice, client horses had to be hauled four hours south to Paso Robles for safe stabling with friends.

The 2016 Olympic eventer needed every ounce of her famously positive attitude to get through it all. Along with a good team and good friends, she had the advantage of familiarity with equine respiratory health on her side. Since her Olympic partner Castle Larchfield Purdy was diagnosed with equine asthma two years ago, Lauren has learned how respirable particles in the barn environment can infiltrate, irritate and inflame the equine respiratory system.

This is true for horses without any pre-existing respiratory problems and in normal weather. It’s exponentially true for horses with conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum and when the inhalation of smoke-borne particulate matter is unavoidable, as it has been for multi-week stretches in Northern California.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Billys.

Help On Hand

Having a Flexineb Portable Equine Nebulizer on hand and Haygain steamed hay as a staple of her personal horses’ diet, Lauren was well prepared to help them through long stretches when the Air Quality Index hit the hazardous zone. Thrice daily treatments with nebulized EquiSilver, an antimicrobial, or a saline solution “helped clear their lungs and gave them a breath of fresh air,” she explains.

The Flexineb is easy to use, lightweight and portable. Lauren and her assistant Andrea Bushlow typically walk the horses during their 10-20 minute daily treatments so their breathing helps draw the aerosolized solutions into their lungs. Even with the horse at rest, the Flexineb delivers aerosolized solutions through the upper airways and deep into the lungs.

Haygain steamed hay is another advantage Lauren’s horses had going into the fire and smoke season. The high-temperature steaming process removes up to 99% of the dust, mold, fungi, bacteria and other allergens found even in hay of good nutrient quality.

Air Filtration

Along with passing oxygen through to the bloodstream, the lungs function as an air filtration system. Unfortunately, they aren’t as easily cleaned as a household air filter. That’s why it’s so beneficial to keep tiny particles out of the lungs in the first place. “It keeps the lungs free of all those particulates and is way more effective at that than soaking the hay,” Lauren says. Keeping the respiratory system clear with steamed hay gave her horses a head start when it came time to deal with the inescapable smoke.

With clear skies in her immediate area now, Lauren is even more grateful than usual to be back training and coaching. Careful management has kept her horses fit even with fire-related training interruptions.

Lauren has two horses competing at Woodside International Horse Trials this week: Castle Larchfield Purdy is contesting the CCI4*-S and Can Be Sweet is tackling the CCI2*-S. Keep an eye on EN for all the latest updates from that event! Then its south again, this time to the Galway Downs International CCI4*-L in Temecula at the end of the month.

Haygain is a science driven company with the horse’s health as the primary focus.

We are committed to improving equine health through scientific research, product innovation and consumer education in respiratory and digestive health. Developed by riders, for riders, we understand the importance of clean forage and a healthy stable environment in maintaining the overall well-being of the horse.

Our Haygain hay steamers are recommended by the world’s leading riders, trainers and equine vets and ComfortStall® Sealed Orthopedic Flooring System is used and recommended by leading Veterinary Hospitals, including Cornell University.