Jessica DiCostanzo’s embrace of steamed hay came about in a typical manner – she started steaming for one horse with a clear diagnosis, then added more horses to the program after seeing the benefits.
It was Amore who brought Jessica and her White Rose Ranch to the Haygain threshold. The Welsh pony/Thoroughbred-cross had been with the eventing trainer’s Southern California facility for six months without health issues.
Then one day, the client who leases him noticed that he was breathing heavily after just walking out of his stall. They suspected stress from early-stage colic and hand-walked him until the breathing returned to normal, then kept a close eye on him.
The next day, Amore seemed fine until after his normal schooling session with Jessica. “He was breathing pretty hard so I continued to walk him to cool him down. After 10 minutes, we started cold hosing and taking his temperature, which was still at 102.5°F after cooling down and he was still breathing heavily.”
That prompted a call to the veterinarian.
“Our vet said she’d seen a few cases of allergy-related equine asthma,” Jessica relates. This was the peak of spring, which is also peak allergy season. The case was likely compounded by allergens in grasses and trees being trimmed around the property at the same time.
The veterinarian recommended moving Amore out of his box stall in the stable and into full-time outdoor pasture. Exposure to respiratory risks increases dramatically when living in a stabled environment. That’s why White Rose’s horses spend all day or all night out in paddocks. Amore began living out 24/7, which is feasible year-round in coastal Southern California’s mild climate.
Steamed hay was also recommended by the veterinarian because it significantly reduces the amount of respirable dust found even in hay of good nutrient quality. This microscopic dust can include mold, bacteria and other allergy triggers.
Hay is a double-edged sword in healthy horse management. Its nutrients and its slow passage through the digestive tract make it an ideal diet foundation for most horses. Unfortunately, hay is also one of the biggest sources of dust in the horse’s environment. Haygain Steaming reduces the respiratory risk factor without depleting hay’s nutrients, enabling most horses to thrive on a forage-heavy diet.
Since moving to the pasture full time and getting steamed hay, Amore has not had any more incidents of rapid breathing or other asthma symptoms.
Three For Three
As often happens, one positive experience with Haygain led Jessica to try it with other horses. Her HG ONE steamer now runs twice a day to feed three horses.
One of them is Jessica’s eventing mare Cocoa, who is returning to work after an injury. Early on, she showed uncharacteristic resistance to Jessica’s go-forward leg aids. The veterinarian thought it might be a case of PSSM, polysaccharide storage myopathy. This condition causes muscle cramping, soreness and/or weakness and results from abnormal storage of glycogen (aka “sugars”) in the muscle. Jessica was advised to treat it as PSSM – primarily by reducing sugars in the mare’s diet.
Haygain Steamed Hay is best known for its respiratory benefits, but it also reduces sugar (water soluble carbohydrates) content. The extent of reduction varies based on several factors including type of hay and its original sugar content. Hay analysis before and after steaming can determine the extent of reduction. Nutrition-wise, the general recommendation for horses with PSSM is to keep sugar intake to 12% of the overall diet.
Cocoa’s barn mate, Val, presented another opportunity to test steamed hay’s benefits. The mare is generally “as hearty as they come,” but in the summer she’s affected by allergies that manifest as “zombie face,” Jessica shares. “It happens every summer.”
Val started the summer on a steamed hay diet and, as of mid-August, evidence of her allergies is nearly nil.
When she’s not training or caring for horses, Jessica is the busy founder of Equivont.com, a popular online equestrian marketplace. In that role, she’s immersed in the world of product marketing claims. She’s grateful for her horses’ first-hand experience with Haygain as an addition to the overall routines carefully tailored for each horse’s needs.
Haygain’s benefits are supported by extensive scientific research, but it’s also nice for Jessica to see for herself how the product has helped three horses with different health issues.