Health of the Equine Respiratory System – “Create a healthy ARENA”
Guess Article By Teri Clark

Veterinarian medicine studies *agree prevention and maintenance is the key to dealing with respiratory problems in our horses.

The respiratory system of horses

Let’s begin with the respiratory system itself. Air enters the nostrils — quickly moisture and heat are added before it journeys to the trachea. Here turbinates’ trap larger particles as the first line-of-defense.  Leaving the trachea, air moves through numerous larger airways called the Bronchi then onto the smaller bronchioles.  Here fine hair like cilia and mucus cells line the air passages acting as the second particle collection agent.  A light thin layer of mucus is considered healthy.

Intake ends at the alveolar sacs. Gas Exchange happens across this membrane, oxygen heads to the red blood cells (Oxygen is essential to organs and tissues) while carbon dioxide is expelled.  Carbon Dioxide is a by-product of energy production. The last soldier of defense is the alveoli; here cells called macrophages clean up the remaining inhaled irritants and contaminates.

Overwhelming the lung’s defense system can decrease its ability to ward off respiratory infections, environmental or bacterial pollutants. Environmental contaminates include ammonia, DUST and mold.  Bacterial include infectious agents and viruses. Wetness and humidity breed bacterial and fungus growth.  Ammonia is a high level irritant.

Respiratory Damage

All horses are at risk unless care is taken. Horses are at risk of ammonia contamination during trailer journeys, in rental stalls or pens previously used by other animals at events, state and regional fairgrounds.  Low dwellers, such as foaling mares, their foals, ponies and miniature houses are at greater risk.  The dirt, sand or concrete in the stall/pens hold contaminates like bacteria, dust, mold and ammonia.

Demands on the respiratory system depend on whether the horse is at rest or in heavy performance.  Performance horses demand large volumes of air. A typical horse (at rest) intakes five liters of air with one breath.  During competition or exercise an equine athlete will increase that amount to 15 liters per breath at 150 breaths per minute. In other words, horse’s move in a MINUTE’S TIME SOME 2250 PLUS LITERS OF AIR EFFICIENTLY TO COMPETE and WIN.

A horse’s lungs act like locomotion…” In running, the kinetic and potential energy fluctuate in-phase, and the energy change is passed on to muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments acting as springs” — Wikipedia.

When contaminates cause even a slight increase in mucus, or thickening in the air passages, will result in poorer performance eventually leading to EIPH (exercise induces pulmonary hemorrhaging) or COPD, commonly called ‘heaves’.

Horses forced to compete, hunt, jump, exercise or barrel race with mucus or blockage of the air ways can compromise its health greatly.  Often traces of blood are found near the nostrils indicating EIPH. The lack of blood does not mean the horse is not experiencing EIPH.  Imagine trying to pull air into your lungs thru a narrow straw while running at full speed.

Increasingly, over time the damage will manifest itself and takes its long term toll on the equine’s ability to inhale 2,250 liters of air per minute.  Performance becomes poorer and poorer.  Respiratory diseases weaken the immune systems furthering the opportunity for large scale infections, long recoveries and higher veterinarian bills or even loss of the animal. Coughing is only one indication among many of the presence of respiratory disease.

Minimizing the horse’s exposure to DUST, mold and ammonia is essential to their healthy respiratory system.

But it’s not only the horses that are at risk.  Trainers, instructors, their caretakers, riders young and old increasingly develop Asthma, COPH, pneumonia, and other respiratory diseases and infections caused by DUST, MOLD, and ammonia and are two times more likely to develop Chronic Bronchitis.

Dust Control in Horse Arenas

Equine arenas is the biggest culprit of DUST’s contribution to our lungs.  Various footing ingredients used in arenas as well as added thru horse manure are the prime source of dust. Clay, caliche, and sand are among the worst dust makers.

Pulverized by hooves sand, manure and (worst yet) used shavings….. they all become dust.
Look at your pants and boots after a ride. What do you think your lungs look like? What toll is dust taking on your horses?

Finding a safe effective aid to DUST control is essential; safe for your horse and you. Watering expansive areas is time consuming, can be costly and mostly ineffective.  We’d all rather ride then water.

Most dust control products are expensive and caustic.
Replacing your ‘dirt’ entirely with the new fancy footings is in 5 to 6 figure range.

Photo of ARENACLEAR 1 Gallon


Agents such as ARENACLEAR help with water retention. ARENACLEAR was first used as an agricultural mineral to grow organic carrots and artichokes and approved in California since 1971.  When the farmers over sprayed the fields or spilled it on the roads we discovered it controlled dust too.  When applied ARENACLEAR is safe for you and your horse’s hooves etc.

ARENACLEAR works on all types soils-dirt, clay, sand, hardpan, and caliche etc.  When applied to your footing, per the instructions, it will permeate the soil and increase its ability to hold moisture (up to 250%) weighing down the dust particles without being muddy. Easy to apply: use a hose-in-(Quart) sprayer from Home Depot or Lowes for fertilizing your flowers.

One gallon of ARENACLEAR covers 10,000 square feet (100’ by 100’) and is very cost effective.  Multiply your width times your length for square footage. The website shares FAQ’s or by calling Teri or John at 877-562-8147. FAQ’s : Arena Conditioners : Soil Conditioner :


Reference used: Kentucky Equine Research Center —“Small Airway Disease & Equine Respiratory Health”. [PDF] Respiratory Health – Kentucky Equine Research
Reference used: Heaves — College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University
Reference: Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage — College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University Todd D. East under the direction of the faculty and staff of the Equine Pulmonary Laboratory.

NOTE from Joni Solis (blog owner): Like any product I post about on my site please do your homework — check out the company and the ingredients, of anything you are thinking about using for or around yourself, your family, and/or your animals. Ask for references and give a few of them a call. Try to go with companies and products that use healthy and natural ingredients and consider the environment — the earth is currently the only home we have! There maybe other products available so take the time to do some research before making a purchase.

Would I purchase this product? So far it seems like something I would consider if I had a horse arena with a dust problem. I like the fact that it is a natural product that was/is used to grow organic food since 1971.