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Horse For Sale by Cherry Hill
Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage
Your Pony, Your Horse
Horse Health Care by Cherry Hill
Dear Cherry,  
I am a first time horse buyer and am considering purchasing a Quarter horse mare who apparently has a cough from eating some dusty hay.  Will this cough ever go away or will this become a chronic situation?  Should I not consider purchasing the horse because it has this ailment?

Dear Heather,

   I'd be cautious of this horse and definitely have a veterinarian check it over thoroughly.

   There is a condition in horses called "heaves"  (chronic pulmonary emphysema which is similar to a smoker's wheeze).  Heaves are considered a permanent unsoundness.

    Heaves is a disease of the lungs that usually occurs in horses over 5 years of age.  It might have originally been caused by feeding moldy hay or by an infection.  Once the damage has been done to the lungs, the horse will always have the condition.

    Heaves becomes worse when the horse exercises, lives in a dusty environment or a dry climate or is fed dusty or moldy hay.

    A horse with heaves has a hard time expelling air from his damaged lungs.  He coughs and has to use his abdominal muscles to help his lungs empty.  Because of this, a horse that has had heaves for a while will have a "heave line" on each side of his barrel along the lower edge of the abdomen.  The heave line is where the muscles have become misshapen and overdeveloped from pushing upward to help expel air from the lungs.

   There is no cure for heaves but a horse with a mild case of heaves can be made more comfortable by wetting his hay down before feeding it to him and keeping him in a clean environment.

    I recommend that you have a veterinarian thoroughly check any horse you are considering buying BEFORE purchase.  Whether this horse has heaves or not will be uncovered during the Pre-Purchase Exam.

   Best of luck.  I hope you find the horse of your dreams too!  

Cherry Hill


  1998 Cherry Hill 

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