May 2018 - From Science to Stable
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Monday, 30 April 2018 19:33
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On location at Sapphire Farm, home of RW Dressage, built by Tim Collins Construction. Photography by Debbie Hansen / Hansen Images

Haygain Solutions for Healthier Horses.

by Kim F. Miller

Lauren Hough, Debbie McDonald, Mark Todd, William Fox-Pitt, Ben Maher and Andrew Hoy are just a few of the Olympic equestrians who rely on Haygain to keep their equine partners in medal-winning form. It’s not just the elite, however, who consider the company’s products critical to a mission that unites horse owners across all disciplines and breeds. The “rest of us” also are discovering that science-based Haygain products help our horses to live healthier lives.

“Without our horses we are nowhere,” says California native and 2000 Olympic show jumper Lauren Hough. “We want to give our horses the best that we can.” That sentiment is shared with owners of racing Thoroughbreds and barrel horses, cross-country crusaders, backyard buddies and every type of steed in between. Olympians often cite the competitive edge of using Haygain® steamed hay and the ComfortStall® orthopedic padded and sealed flooring system, while everyday horse owners describe horses breathing easier, moving better, and thriving.

For Lauren’s equine athletes, providing “the best” includes Haygain steamed hay at her U.K. and Wellington, FL, training bases and anywhere their globe-trotting international itinerary takes them. “With all the travelling we do, they don’t always get the same hay,” Lauren explains. “Steaming it takes away the risk: there’s nothing problematic left in there, so it greatly reduces the risk of respiratory problems or coughs, infections, etc. It’s a really valuable tool.”

Fellow American Olympian, and dressage rider and prominent coach, Debbie McDonald, was among the first to embrace Haygain’s products. Debbie’s famous Olympic partner Brentina recovered from a major colic bout with help from Haygain’s steamed hay and lived on ComfortStall’s unique flooring system at home in Hailey, ID, before her retirement. The mare even travelled on it during the by-land legs of her many journeys. “We highly recommend ComfortStall for all performance horses’ stalls and trailer floors!” say Debbie and her husband and fellow top horseman Bob McDonald.      

Healthy Solutions

Solving horse health problems is the core of Haygain’s origin story. The hay steaming process resulted from a quest for forage that’s free of respiratory particles, irritants, bacteria and spores that are, to many people’s surprise, prevalent in even the finest quality, most expensive hay. ComfortStall was developed to provide unprecedented cushion and support, whether the horse is standing or lying down for a long, restorative REM snooze, and to solve the bacteria-laden “petri-dish” that can exist below traditional stall mats.

Both were developed in conjunction with top veterinary hospitals and research facilities. Haygain’s hay steaming came about in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, England. Cornell University Veterinary Hospital’s Surgery and Anesthesia Department was the staging ground for extensive testing of ComfortStall’s material components, where it has been in daily use in the recovery stalls since its 2007 installation. Problem-free use since then includes holding up to bio-security disinfection between as many as six horses a day. In addition, independent lab testing of ComfortStall materials included loading a simulated horse’s leg with 400 pounds, and pounding it over 100,000 times onto the same spot. The only result was extremely minimal compaction.

ForagerTM Slow Feeder, with interchangeable forage regulators, has been researched and developed to regulate the pace at which horses eat, while allowing them to feed in a natural position that imitates grazing behavior.

Flexineb® Portable Equine Nebulizer is the portable equine nebulizer that utilizes proprietary technology to efficiently deliver aerosolized medication directly to the horse’s lungs.

Haygain products also include the Forager™ Slow Feeder and the Flexineb® Portable Equine Nebulizer. The Forager lets horses eat as nature intended, in small mouthfuls over a long period of time, the way their digestive systems were designed. The Flexineb administers an aerosolized mist at optimum particle size for delivery to the horse’s lungs.

Horse health and well-being are Haygain’s laser focus, but equines aren’t the only ones who benefit. Substantial cost savings are appreciated by owners, as are the clean stable environments Haygain products create.

Haygain Hay Steamers are the only scientifically proven method for purifying hay. Steaming with Haygain improves the hygienic quality of forage, reducing the threat from respirable dust, mold spores and pathogens to produce highly palatable and nutritious forage.

The Story of the Steamer

Steamed hay was conceived as a healthier alternative to soaking hay, or as an additional step in treating hay for horses who require lower sugar content.

Soaking hay was the previous standard for reducing carbohydrates and dust and other breathable particles present in even the finest quality forage. Soaking, however, has many drawbacks. Leaching nutrients, increasing bacteria, decreasing palatability, unhealthy post-soak liquid and making a big mess are others.

To engineer an alternative to soaking, Haygain’s founders worked in partnership with Professor Meriel Moore-Colyer of the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, England. Their theory was that steaming hay could reduce problematic particles that damage the horse’s respiratory system while preserving the hay’s nutrients and palatability.

They were right.

Experiments with materials and methods ensued. The end result is Haygain Hay Steamer’s patented manifold spike system, housed within a purpose-built thermal chest. The spikes inject steam evenly throughout the hay, whether baled, loose or in flakes. The thermally efficient chest allows the temperature to rise high enough, over 212° Fahrenheit, to kill bacteria, mold spores, yeasts, fungi and other pollutants naturally found in hay to virtually eliminate dust and other respirable particles.

The results were exciting: Steamed hay was devoid of fungi and yeast and the viable bacteria count was reduced by 99 percent. Additional scientific studies established that the process reduces respirable particles by up to 98 percent. Because hay is one of the biggest contributors to respiratory issues in horses, that was and is a big deal. It’s doubly so because the equine respiratory system, unlike its muscles or cardiovascular system, does not get more fit through training or conditioning. That makes it all the more important to protect the respiratory tract from elements that compromise its function.

Since Haygain’s early breakthrough studies, other benefits of steamed hay have been confirmed through veterinary-supervised scientific research. The steam injection process uses three-quarters of a gallon of water during its average cycle. When finished, the hay is not wet and soggy as it is when soaked. It’s soft and slightly moist from absorbing that water and smells great. Repeated studies have shown horses prefer it over dry, unsteamed hay.

“It smells wonderful,” affirms Debbie McDonald of steamed hay’s mouth-watering aroma.

The additional water is great for any horse’s digestion and especially for those prone to colic. Getting patients back on track with their nutrition routine is a priority for vets treating horses after colics or surgeries and tasty steamed hay often helps resolve that challenge.

Horsemen come to steamed hay on different paths. Seven-time Olympic eventer Andrew Hoy grew up on a hay farm in his native Australia. He naturally recognized the importance of clean hay and the difficulty of getting it as he rose through his sport’s international ranks.

California-based Grand Prix show jumper Karl Cook sought hay that would entice his horses to eat as heartily as they ate haylage in Europe and “something better than wetting it.” When his veterinarian suggested steaming, Karl researched it and came to believe it would provide respiratory benefits. That quality made it an especially good fit for the young professional’s dedication to providing his jumpers every health benefit possible.

The respiratory benefits were crystal clear to Kentucky veterinarian and Grand Prix dressage rider, Dr. Wren Burnley. She’s an asthmatic herself, and enjoys significantly easier breathing in the barn since putting her horses on Haygain steamed hay.

However they come to steamed hay, it tends to remain part of the program. “It’s all about that ounce of prevention,” says top U.S. eventer Allison Springer. “Some might see it as an extra step, but to me it’s totally worth making it part of the horses’ routine. The equine respiratory system is really sensitive and that’s why I feel it’s so important to be proactive.”

ComfortStall® Orthopedic, Sealed Flooring System is the veterinarian-recommended, orthopedic padded and sealed flooring system that goes beyond comfort, for healthier horses, improved air quality in the stable and lower expenses for stall bedding and maintenance.

A Game Changing Flooring System

ComfortStall is a padded and sealed, orthopedic flooring system comprised of three unique, veterinarian-recommended components. The IronClad™ TopCover is a single-piece rubber sheet made of five layers: two of tough, tightly woven polyester/nylon mesh sandwiched between three layers of dense vulcanized rubber. The cover is pliable enough to deliver the therapeutic benefits of the padding it protects, yet tough enough to outlast everything but concrete.

Below the cover is ComfortStall’s proprietary Precision Foam™ orthopedic padding that eliminates leg fatigue familiar to anybody who stands on hard surfaces, including rubber mats, for a long time. The foam absorbs shock and vibration and returns that energy to the horse’s legs.

The flooring system’s HDPE Anchor Strips seal the TopCover to the stall wall perimeter, creating an impenetrable barrier that prevents urine from finding its way beneath the floor where bacteria can grow and ammonia can create noxious, unhealthy fumes.

Easily installed by those with DIY skills as well as professionals, the flooring system’s benefits extend beyond comfort.

San Diego dressage rider Tiffany Silverman and her husband, veterinarian Mark Silverman, DVM, MS, happened upon ComfortStall several years ago in a barn they moved into. They quickly came to describe it as a “game changer” and prioritized its use when building their current barn in Rancho Santa Fe, where Dr. Silverman’s Southern California Equine Podiatry Center is also based.

As the horse’s hooves sink slightly into the ComfortStall flooring, the subtle shifts of weight required keep muscles moving, which boosts blood flow. That greatly reduces the inflammation that normally builds up in confined horses’ legs throughout the day and night. Thanks to that, Tiffany rarely sees the need to wrap her horses’ legs at night – unless there’s a medical reason to do so.

Dr. Silverman sees Comfortall’s benefits from the veterinary vantage point. He treats many laminitic, foundered and otherwise footsore horses in his podiatry practice and observes that the flooring system is a terrific pain reliever for these patients.

Cost savings are another significant benefit. Tiffany estimates her stable cut bedding costs by 60 percent, and many report overall savings of 70 percent. Bedding isn’t needed for cushioning with Comfortstall, just enough to absorb urine. Minimal shavings means minimal labor and time to remove them, plus significantly less waste to deal with. It typically takes just one year or less of cost savings to recoup the expense of purchasing and installing ComfortStall.

A good night’s sleep is yet another benefit. Northern California reining pro Thad Carr relishes the moment when new stable hands come to him worried that the horses are not feeling well. Why? “The ComfortStall has turned our athletes into a bunch of flat-out nappers,” he laughs. “They’re lying down and getting their rest.” He, too, has gotten rid of standing wraps thanks to the stimulating surface his horses stand on in their stable.

Clear the Air

Haygain steamed hay and the ComfortStall flooring system defend against one of the biggest everyday risks to horse health: poor barn air quality. States a respiratory health fact sheet published by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, “The most important factor in improving your horses’ health is to decrease environmental irritants.”

The new definition, Equine Asthma Spectrum, reflects advancing veterinary understanding of the equine respiratory system and compromises to its function. Conditions on the mild end of the spectrum are surprisingly prevalent and often present no outward signs.

“A horse can have a serious problem with their respiratory system without having obvious symptoms to where the owner can’t pinpoint what’s going on,” explains Emmanuelle Van Erck-Westergren, DVM, PhD, ECEIM.

“The horse can have lower airway inflammation and not necessarily have a cough, nasal discharge or heavy breathing.” Multiple studies confirm the presence of Inflammatory Airway Disease in indoor-stabled horses with no symptoms.

The good news is that prevention is possible. Hay and bedding are the biggest irritants in the barn. Shake a flake or handful of even the best quality hay or bedding and the visible poof of particles proves this point.

Effective steaming rids hay of irritants, allergens and a slew of other respiratory particles that cause or contribute to everything from an occasional cough to career-ending Respiratory Airway Obstruction, aka “heaves.”

On the flooring front, greatly reduced bedding needs are ComfortStall’s first contribution to clean stable air. Equally important, the sealed system eliminates the accumulation of urine that seeps between traditional mat seams to pool underneath. The ammonia those accumulations emit doesn’t just stink, it’s a major respiratory irritant. If the smell is detectable in the barn, it’s already at a level that’s impacting the horse’s respiratory tract.

The extensive testing and veterinary guidance that brought Haygain’s products to market continues to be a hallmark of the company. A wealth of research and educational material is constantly updated and made available to all on the company’s website and Facebook page. As has been the case in the company’s first decade, the more owners know, the more they rely on Haygain’s help in providing the best support for their horses’ health.

Haygain is committed to improving equine health through scientific research, product innovation and customer education in respiratory and other equine health issues. With offices in the USA and England, Haygain manufactures and distributes products for healthier horses to 19 countries, including its Haygain® Hay Steamers, ComfortStall® Orthopedic, Sealed Flooring System, Forager™ Slow Feeder and Flexineb® Portable Equine Nebulizer. For more information, visit

What Customers Say

--------Haygain Hay Steamers--------

“We [at Purdue] use a Haygain hay steamer which has beenshown to reduce respirable dust by 98%.”
Dr Kathleen Ivester and Dr Laurent Couetil, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“I am 8 months into my Haygain ownership. The Haygain steamer saved their lives and mine.”
Susan Cady Lima, Michigan

“It’s been 5 years since I bought my Haygain steamer. It’s hands down the most important thing I have ever purchased for my horses’ health.”
Lori Whitman, Wisconsin

“We’ve been using a Haygain steamer for 9 months and it has made a tremendous difference for us. Belle’s breathing is better and her coat is glorious. We love our steamer.”
Charlie Lieske, South Carolina

-----ComfortStall Flooring System-----

“Significantly improved the well-being of my horses.”
Lynn Lloyd, Red Rock Hounds, NV

“I used to haul the mats out, hose them down, and leave them out to dry – a half day job ... ComfortStall only takes half an hour to sterilize, and I don’t have the dried urine and manure buildup that occurs under mats.”
Chari Perce, Aspen Equine Clinic, CA