With an Easterly-Beast threatened for next week, or at the very least some seriously flipping cold temps heading our way, our horses’ lungs are going to notice the difference.
We’ve got both lung function and lung capacity to think about, especially when the temps are heading to below zero. And there’s a subtle difference between the two - lung function is how the body uses air, while lung capacity is how much air the body can use.
- Lung function determines the amount of air the lungs can hold and how quickly the body can take in and release air from the lungs, as well as the body’s ability to oxygenate and remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the blood.
- Lung capacity determines the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use.
Lung function begins to decline with aging, with body changes that could contribute to a decrease in lung capacity including:
- The diaphragm muscles can become weaker.
- Lung tissue designed to help keep the airways open may lose its elasticity, causing the airways to become smaller.
- Rib cage bones may change, leaving less room for the lungs to expand properly.
- Air sacs lose their shape and become baggy.
We can help optimise our horses’ breathing, which in turn will have an immediate and beneficial impact on the lungs.
- Regular exercise – sounds obvious I know, but an hour’s worth of moderately intense movement daily, such as a brisk walk out, is really beneficial for the lungs, not to mention muscle toning, a healthier heart and circulation, and a better mood by boosting dopamine levels.
- Hydration – another obvious, but staying well hydrated helps keep the mucosal linings in the lungs thin, which helps the lungs function better.
- Sunshine! A 2018 Australian human study states that higher vitamin D levels are associated with better lung function, showing there’s a link between vitamin D and respiratory disease. The study authors state, “Low levels of (vit.D) were independently associated with asthma, bronchitis, wheeze and chest tightness … Higher vitamin D levels were associated with higher levels of lung function.”
The best way to naturally raise vit.D is by regularly exposing large amounts of the skin to sunshine. Of course, here in the UK this isn’t always possible (!), but if we get one of those glorious frosty, sunny days where the temps don’t get below zero, get rugs off and let that coat soak up the sunshine.
For our delicate rugged-up flowers, you could look to supplement with oral vitamin D3. Bear in mind, though, that vit.D is fat soluble (so needs fat/oil in the feedbowl), and … it needs vit.K2, calcium and magnesium to work synergistically. All four are needed to ensure proper balance and maximum effectiveness, but the good news is that it’s likely you’ll find a supplement with either all four in, or at least the vit.D3 and K2 together. Here's a link with more info on the subject of equine vit.D requirements: https://ker.com/equinews/vitamin-d-equine-diets/
So here’s to getting out there and moving, and basking in the sunshine, to improve lung capacity. It’s worth every breath 😊