What can a person do when their horse has heaves?

“What can a person do when their horse has heaves?A good horse is never a bad color.
Every fall and winter my mare gets heaves an every time I take her to the vet they say she’s healthy. October to May she gets bad if feed the wrong hay.” -Anna

My first horse (pony actually) was named Misty and she had heaves. As a kid I remember the worst symptoms happening during hot humid weather. As she got older it occurred more frequently. She would exhibit difficulty breathing as well as wheezing sounds. The vet did give us some medication that we could give her when this happened and then we would turn her out and give her the day off. I don’t recall what the vet prescribed. Although it was something we had to manage she was well worth the extra care.

Thankfully I haven’t run into this problem again. I did find a great article “Horses Heaves Symptoms and Treatment” by Horse & Rider that I suggest reading. It was interesting to discover that my mom and I did five of the eight suggested tips on our own.

Have you ever had a horse with heaves? How did you handle it? How did the horse respond?


  1. maude Gauthier on November 12, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    5lbs of carrots/wk for the retinol acid (proven on the rats to be effective against COPD) and got good results on my 12yrs old mare. In bad crisis, one pouch of Dexamethasone and she was good to go few hours after the injection. Unfortunately, COPD is irreversible. You need to manage the crisis and more important the inflammation. But it could be well controlled

    • julie monette on May 4, 2022 at 9:53 pm

      What ratio and dosage please

  2. Dayle Noble Biba on November 12, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    We had our mare for 29 years before she passed away. The last 5 were spent doctoring her heaves that began in the early fall and lasted through the winter. We gave her venipulmum (sp) and dex twice a day which helped her breathing. Being in the barn aggravated it so we wet her day or gave her alfalfa cubes, or cut hay.

  3. Robin on November 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    We have a horse w/ this same problem. So far it has been resolved by wetting his hay at every feeding. If the barn gets too humid for him in the winter he moves to an unheated stall in a different barn, but away from the dust of the arena, and closest to the door so he gets as much fresh air as possible. Occasional flare ups are treated w/ a shot from the vet, but these are pretty rare now.

  4. Pat Pehling on November 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    My Arabian gelding would develop a terrible cough each winter. My Veterinarian learned about Hay Steamers at a conference. I bought one and within two weeks he stopped coughing and has had no troubles in the last three years. I have the Jiffy Half-bale hay steamer and I steam the hay for my three horses twice a day. It is easy to use and the hay smells like fresh mown grass. It is not cheap ($1,500) but a whole lot better than having my wonderful horse suffering. I figure it will give me many more years of a healthy horse!

  5. Jeff Burton on November 11, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    I had a Mare who developed Heaves after eating mouldy dusty hay, so bad that she would sweat and blow urine out the back when she coughed, I put her on hay cubes for the rest of the winter and Grass pasture all summer, she had a normal life after, winning ribbons, but as soon as she got to free feed from a round bale the heaves returned.

  6. firnhyde on November 11, 2014 at 9:23 am

    My horse has a kind of mild COPD that can’t be classified as heaves, but is more of an allergy. She would cough every time she worked until I put her on pasture instead of hay. No medications. Now completely normal. I do still have to dampen hay if I do have to give her some, though.

  7. Jennifer Clements on November 11, 2014 at 8:22 am

    over the years we have managed several horses with heaves, even a lesson horse. Vets usually give some thing for the reactive airway (wheezing noises because of inflammation in the pipes) but you can skip hay by feeding haystretcher pellets, or wet it to remove dust. Heaves is like horse asthma/COPD, treat accordingly….avoid excessive dust and molds, high humidity can cause issues. hope this helps 🙂 it does seem to be a progressive thing as the horse gets older it gets more difficult to manage effectively.

  8. Annie Hunt on November 11, 2014 at 7:43 am

    We leased a pony who had heaves because he was allergic to hay. We feed him New Hope, fresh grass, and a restricted amount of oats.

  9. Linda J McPhee on November 11, 2014 at 5:06 am

    One of horses started to develop mild heaves. She lived in most of the time in winter, and had hay. We changed to haylage and increased turnout on grass … to reduce the dust she might breathe, and to encourage a natural , head-down, sinus-clearing position most of the time. Now she’s still on haylage, has a feeder that’s low (to keep particles out of her nose), gets no grain and is turned out unless it’s really stormy. She’s shown no symptoms for years.

  10. sharon croghan on November 10, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    we had a heavy pony several years ago, she also had skin problems from an allergy to fly bites…it was horrible. I put her on a Hilton Herb product especially for allergies. I put her on them in the late fall; kept her on them all winter and next spring, no heaves and no skin issues.

  11. Steff on November 10, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    I had an older draft horse with a mild case of heaves. For light carriage work he was ok, but in the show ring we put Vicks in his nostrils to help open his airway.

  12. Bonnie on November 10, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I currently have a miniature horse, Markie, 17 y/o, that has a history of severe and extreme allergies (grasses, weeds, no-see-ums, molds) and has had difficulties with allergy induced heaves. Sadly, we are starting to have another episode. He was initially receiving allergy shots every 21 days but those were stopped when his last heaves episode, approximately five or six years ago. He was treated with prednisone along with another medication. Using a steroid on a miniature horse/pony can run the risk of founder, so it was taken in serious consideration. We live in Wisconsin, and Markie just started last week with the wheeziness and coughing. With his last episode, it started in early spring.

  13. Chelsea Ready on November 10, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    My vet prescribed my horse ventipulmin syrup and it has worked wonders, Zev is something you can get yourself (of course I am in Canada so the US might be different). Make sure you water the hay down and keep dust to a minimum. 🙂

  14. Sierra St. Francis on November 10, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    In the old days they used to give horses a warm bucket with jello diluted in it. It does work! I have seen it with my own eyes. They would give it to them everyday until it was gone with plenty of rest and ventlation. Jello in water is also very good for diarrea. Got to love these old remedies. Most times they work better than the newest stuff out there. This remedy was passed down to me over 5 generations. It will do in a pinch.

    • Linda Hill on June 9, 2016 at 1:06 am

      How much warm water to the jello ratio? I am at my wits end. I will try this.

      • Patsy Weakley on February 17, 2022 at 12:33 am

        Was your question answered? I need to know also.

        • julie monette on May 4, 2022 at 9:53 pm

          What ratio and dosage please

  15. Hailey henry on November 10, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    I have a 13 year old quarter horse who was feed moldey hay at a trail ride and I bought tea from Alberta, Canada and it costs about atleast $1000.00 a year but when he drinks it you would never know his heaves are gone and he’s back to normal

    • julie monette on May 4, 2022 at 9:51 pm

      What’s the tea brand or taste

  16. Kaeleen on November 10, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Oxy-gen 2X, is the best there is. Used it on our COPD/heavy mare for 10 yrs. and All I can say is do not use histamines, they are a cover up, and do not work. http://www.oxyhors.com to order yours. Vet and store bought stuff don’t work.

  17. Amy on November 10, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    I have an Arab mare that has heaves like symptoms, it started in March of this year and any time she has a gait faster than a walk she has to stop and cough. I had my vet out to see her and the diagnosis is that she has a hard time clearing mucus from her lungs…
    I have since then put her on respri-free made by alpha omega. It has made a world of difference! Her coughing is almost non existant when she is on it. I have also been experimenting with apple cider vinegar, and it doesn’t work as well as the alpha omega but it does help! She is worth all the extra effort!!!!

  18. Janine on November 10, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    My retired QH gelding has what the vet calls ” grass heaves”. He gets wheezey on green grass. Of course he has a laundry list of other health issues too. Have always wondered if the root cause is auto immune but could never find a way to diagnose cause versus symptom.

  19. Rosemarie on November 10, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    I bought a horse that I was told was 12 and as it turned out he was around 20. had him from August 2009 until April 30, 2012.

    We kept him on pasture and avoided feeding hay when possible. Which made it hard during the winter. We tried oral meds, wetting the hay before feeding, which is hard in the winter with it being -30 or colder, however his hardest time seemed to be when the weather started to warm up, his symptoms just got worse and worse until it was obvious his quality of life wasn’t very good anymore. We had to have the vet euthanize him in the end as it wasn’t fair to allow him to struggle to breathe any longer and to allow him to suffer.

  20. Jodie on November 10, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    We have had 2. Both different back grounds and different breeds.
    1. We soak his hay all summer long. We soak for 6-12 hours and then use a pitchfork to lift the hay from the soaked water and fed outside.

    2. My vet gave us prednisone for his heaves. If they get out of hand then given as a shot, otherwise if coughing is caught in time just given in his grain.

    3. Natures sunshine bronchial formula the dosage depends on the horse. I was at the point my horse had lost a lot of weight and we took him as a last resort to a natural path DR and she said that . We clean the barn (scrubed) every spring, we lime the barn after every cleaning.

    In the winter we sprinkle snow on the hay to prevent the dust since we do not have a heated feed room.

  21. Bob on November 10, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Could be from dust in the hey sprinkle the hey with some water worked for my horse.

  22. Heather on November 10, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Some years ago we had the opportunity to buy our dream horse…broke to death western pleasure horse. However, once we got him to the boarding facility, the could barely take 3 steps without coughing and almost suffocating. The vet said he’d be OK if he could live outside. Well, we looked for a week or so and nobody, absolutely nobody offered turnout board, so sadly we had to take him back to the horse dealer.

Leave a Comment




100% Private - 0% Spam

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

No one taught you the skills you need to work through these things.

Riders often encounter self-doubt, fear, anxiety, frustration, and other challenging emotions at the barn. The emotions coursing through your body can add clarity, or can make your cues indistinguishable for your horse.

Learning these skills and begin communicating clearly with your horse.

Click here to learn more.



Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get the latest content and updates by email.