The last month has brought many exceptional experiences over at the farm. After 17 years, the cicadas are back and screaming away in the trees. Sometimes they fly close to me and Christi, but we run away as fast as we can because they look too similar to horseflies – we don’t want to stick around to find out which pest it really is! Other than the non-stop racket, there is also a lot of non-stop sneezing going on around here! Did you know that some horses are dealing with the same allergy triggers as you may be!?
You probably are sneezing more than usual because of the high pollen counts this year. Horses can react to allergens, like certain grasses or molds and dust, too. Clues that your horse may be allergic to something could be watery/teary eyes, coughing, or raised lumps on its body. A chronic coughing reaction is known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or “heaves.” Heaves is the result of inflammation in the horse’s lungs which makes it harder to breathe.
For me, I always dread the fact that warm summer weather brings back flies because I get an allergic reaction to some fly bites! Once the weather stays consistently hot, then the “summer itch” sets in. This isn’t the itch to go on vacation, or spend time at the beach; no, this is the itch that leaves me rolling around on the ground trying to scratch it! Some horses develop an allergy referred to as “sweet itch” (or “summer itch”), which is a reaction to the saliva of tiny biting flies called culicoides – that’s “Q-le-koid-z”. Once a horse with an allergy is bitten, it will develop an irritation and itchiness around the area. You may see your horse rubbing up against a tree, fence or its pasture pal. Lucky for me, I have my girl Christi who doesn’t mind giving me a back scratch! Unfortunately, once a horse develops an allergy, it has it for life. You can’t exactly prevent an allergy, but you can definitely implement best farm management practices to keep your farm in the best condition it can be for your horse!
What kind of allergies do horses that you know have? Do they have the same reaction to tiny biting flies/culicoides as I do? Write your experiences below! And remember to email me at LordNelson@aesop.rutgers.edu if you need assistance dealing with your horse’s allergies!