Wildfire, Smoke, and Your Horse

A wildfire exploding
A wildfire exploding

With all the recent wildfires in my area and the smoke lingering in the air for several days, I wondered how healthy all this could be for my horse?

I know it’s a little after the fact now. With the cooler weather and spotty rains, the fires around here have been reduced to smokey ash. But I think it’s still good to know about this kind of air quality, or I should say not so good quality of air, and what we as horse owners can do.

In the research I’ve done I found that if a person is having trouble breathing and breathing problems, chances are your horse is suffering too. He can be uncomfortable, coughing and choking the same as a person.

What’s in the Smoke?

Smoke is carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, soot, hydrocarbons, and whatever else is out there burning and making ash in the air. All this combined can make humans sick and can make a horse sick too. They will breath hard and their eyes sting.


Ride or Not Ride?

When heavy smoke is in the air horse activities should be limited and even canceled. In my area a weekend gymkhana event was called off because the smoke was too thick. The mountains surrounding the valley were shrouded in the brown haze as well as the valley itself.

It would have been too stressful for the horses out there running around barrels and poles. Their breathing would certainly of taken a toll on them. These events can always be re-scheduled at a later, safer time. It’s more important to stay home and keep your horses in their regular surroundings where there is plenty of water and feed and no work to do.

A thick hazy smoke lingers.
A thick, hazy smoke lingers.

When to Call in the Veterinarian:

If a cough develops or the respiratory rate goes up get a hold of your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Like I mentioned, fresh water should always be available, but especially so during a fire that’s close. Drinking water keeps airways wet and cleans out the passageway in the horse’s nostrils.


Have a Plan:

When a horse does have to be moved to a safer area because the fire has jumped a road and the wind has put it on a course for your property, have a plan in place so it can be put into action as fast as possible.

The barn where I used to keep my horse was in such a situation. My friend, who is still at that barn and the owner had a few horses to move. They were able to take them to the fair grounds. Luckily the barn did not burn, they were able to get the fire stopped short of the crossing the road.

Where I have my horse now, the owner has taken in someones horse who was in a fire danger situation and he is still boarding there until all danger has passed.

I didn’t ride my horse much during this time. I did a little, just around the pasture a few times at a walk, not trotting or loping, but I began to feel a little guilty and we went back to her pen where I brushed her good and fed her some oats. We both felt better.

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