• Equitana 2011 Innovation prize!

    D-Dust, winner of the Equitana 2011 Innovation award!


Health horses

Healthy airways are essential for healthy horses. Horses with affected lungs not only have a very unhealthy life, but also the performance  of the horse will be negatively influenced when it struggles with lung related issues.

Respiratory Problems: A common problem

Scientific research has shown that 42% of all horses have a lung related disorder and 20% of those horses will require veterinary help. Usually the problems are caused by fine dust, and the hygiene issues connected to the dust.

Major diseases

Every horse will cough sometimes. It is often difficult to determine whether it is an innocent cough or if the vet needs to be called. Horses have a natural way to filter dust from the air and clean their own lungs. In the respiratory tract (nose, throat, trachea and alveoli) membrane’s and fine hair collect the dust. The mucous and the collected dust is coughed up and removed  through the nose or discharged when swallowed. The coarse particles are collected in the upper airways, the smaller particle’s can penetrate deeper into the lower airways, the alveoli (or bronchial). Coughing is the natural way to clean the airways. Dust, pollen and mucous are removed from the airways via pharynx and the nose. When the coughing of the horse becomes serious, the horse might have developed one of the illness or diseases below:

1. R.A.O.

2. I.A.D

3. Cold

4. Hay fever

5. Disorders of the upper respiratory tract


The main chronic respiratory disease in horses is COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Nowadays this disease is called RAO (Recurrent Airway Obstructive). In popular parlance we call this heaves. What is heaves? Heaves is caused by a fungus, to be precise there is an allergic reaction to mould spores. How does that work? Fungi and their spores are connected to dust and are inhaled by the horse. After inhaling, these particles reach the lower airways and finally the small alveoli. The bodies response is to mobilise white blood cells from the blood into the lungs. The immune system then is triggered to make antibodies to fight the fungal infection. As a result also extra mucous is formed by the horse to remove the infection from the respiratory tract. With the increase of the mucous the horse will cough a lot to clean the airways. In animals with a predisposition to develop allergies, the immune system reacts excessively to the fungus (spores). The body can hardly distinguish between the fungi and other organic substances (such as particulates in the air). The immune response to fine dust becomes the same as the reaction to a fungal infection. In extreme cases the horse may develop secondary infections such as bronchitis or chronic cough, which will damage the alveoli and can cause emphysema.  

 In recent years there are more and more horses that develop an allergy against mould spores and have an allergic reaction to fine dust. An exact cause is not clear. Horses can have a genetically predisposition to stimuli ( such dust) and other horses develop the allergy because of a lowered resistance, a high dust and mould exposure, a combination with another infection, constant exposure to high concentrations of ammonia, etc. Usually the problems appear at an age of 8 years, but in trotters (race horses)  it is seen much earlier (2 years). Only 5% of chronic coughing horse has a pollen allergy (similar to hay fever in humans).

What is IAD (Inflammatory Airways Disease)?

When a horse suffers from IAD, the passage of the bronchiolis is completely blocked by excess mucous and fibrous tissue. This limits the O2 and CO2 exchange and makes breathing difficult. A bacterial, fungal or viral infection may lead to IAD. High on the list of causes of IAD are substances in the environment of the horse, such as dust, allergens (such as plant pollens, moulds and spores in hay) and endotoxins (bacterial secretions). Sensitive horses have an immune response to certain substances and produce antibodies to fight the infection. This reaction manifests itself as an inflammation of the lungs. The fluids, cells and debris accumulate in the airways and block the passage of the bronchitis (alveoli). The severity of the symptoms of the disease is related to the degree of blockage of the airways. In horses with IAD, the inflammation also causes a degree of hyper-responsiveness. The narrowing of the airways can be a reaction to mould spores, dust or cold air. The reactions (inflammation, hyper-responsiveness and subsequent airway narrowing) can only be influenced  with careful management and treatment.

Photo: Dust from straw and other bedding material are responsible for the bulk of all fine dust in the stable

Click here for more information about IAD   IAD w.o.

Click here for more information about RAO  Recurrent Airway Obstructio

Article from Fleming et. al from the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science – volume 28, no 7 (2008): Generation of Airborne particles from different bedding materials used for horse keeping, Van den Weghe 2008

Article of Holcombe S.J. from AAEP proceedings – volume 51 (2005) Epidemiology of airway inflammation and mucus in horsesIAD w o (2)

Addressing the problem of dust

For all horses, and certainly when horses are coughing, it is crucial to keep the (fine) dust in the horses stable to a minimum. Especially when the horses spend a large part of the day inside. Where does the dust come from? Many horse owners think that most of the fine dust comes from hay. Research has indicated that only 20% of the dust in the stable environment comes from hay. In actual fact most the fine dust comes from bedding material in stables such as straw, flax and wood shavings. So if you, as a horse owner, want to address the dust problem, you must find a solution that addresses both the dust in the hay, and in the bedding!

Hurkyson introduces an innovative solution: “D-Dust”

To deal with the dust problem in horse stables, the Dutch company Hurkyson has developed a highly innovative and patented machine called “D-Dust”. This machine removes fine dust from roughage and bedding materials. The special feature of this machine is it removes dust without the use of water or steam.  The “D-Dust” can be used to clean hay, haylage, straw, wood shavings, flax etc.

How does the “D-Dust” work?

Let us look at straw. Straw can be processed via the D-Dust machine in small or  large round / square bales.  The straw is fed automatically into the machine, loosened and finally dry cleaned. The (fine) dust in the straw is extracted and collected in a container. After cleaning process the straw is collected loose in a wheelbarrow or it is pressed back into small bales again. In other words, the machine turns large bales of straw into small bales and removes nearly all (fine) dust and mould spores. After cleaning, the straw or other materials can be stored several days before usage. The Hurkyson “D-Dust” comes in different sizes. A small machine for people with only a few horses and bigger models for professional yards.

The result

Through the enormous reduction of the (fine) dust in the stable, a significant improvement is achieved in the stable climate. Not only for the horses but also for the people who have to work in the stable. In the near future European labour legislation will force us to think about hygiene and reduce the amount of dust in horse stables. But certainly equally important is the fact that with the better stable climate, we support the health and performance of the horse.