Riding With Asthma

Horseback riding is a demanding sport, there’s no denying it.

How do you do it with lungs that occasionally function on less than half capacity?

Not only is there the part of actively riding the horse, which demands active breathing on the part of the rider, but also all the hours of care around it.  Asthma is not helpful with that.

Lifting heavy items, grooming and tacking up, trudging back and forth many times from pasture to barn.  Pushing wheelbarrows.  Handling feed buckets and heavy hay.  Sweeping, toting tack around.  Bending. Lifting.  Twisting.

The past several months have been a challenge.  My hay mold allergy turned serious.  A couple of different inhalers each day could no longer keep the wheezing at bay.  Same story last year, mentioned in this post – Horse Fun & Health Fail.

Sort of creeps up on you, too.  With so much else to take care of, what’s a little tightening of the chest?  First, breathing on a day-to-day basis becomes very labored.  Then, the throat feels constricted, all the time.  The rescue inhaler no longer seems to be working.

Soon there’s a feeling of fatigue, all day.  Less talking, since it’s strenuous and there has to be more pauses for breathing in between.  Driving with the seat semi reclined all the time, to give more space for the lungs.  Then the hoarseness comes, making it very irritating to speak much at all.

Puffing on the Nebulizer machine no longer creates any shakiness  – the lungs are getting too inflamed to let much of the medication in.

When little stabbing knives set in over your back, it’s time to change strategy and trudge back to the asthma doctor and call in the oral steroids.

new barn

Any time spent horsing around makes me very happy, so of course cutting it out completely is not really an option.

Helpful Hints – Anyone feel free to chime in with more!!

  • Grooming horses outdoor only, minimizing inhaling dust.
  • Using a face mask during any dust inducing activity.  (I faint in temperatures of 90 F with a mask so, well, as much as can anyway.)
  • Watering the arena again between horses if doing a second ride.
  • Giving up on all sweeping.  Seriously.
  • Stepping out if stalls are being cleaned.
  • Avoiding the worst trigger, hay in my case, – my friend is handling the hay for me now.
  • Use a spacer for the inhalers, especially with the steroids, as they can make the vocal cords really suffer and make things feel even worse.
  • Super important for me – continue running in some form.  Many years of competing in long distance running has given me great lung capacity.  Keeping it up in some way, even during bad asthma bouts, really helps.  I just make sure to do it in air conditioning at home, and use the inhaler before and after.

Other than the past months less fun asthma antics – things are just fantastic!  Valiosa is starting to feel even better under saddle and steadier in the contact.  Yesterday we also got out on a road exploring a bit, way too rough gravel to do again, but she was very brave.


Still working on the true forward button.  This is not it, in the free walk.

And the summer heat goes on, and on.

18 thoughts on “Riding With Asthma

  1. Lovely free walk. My mare only offers to lower her ears just below the withers. Forget about the chin below the knees. As for the hay, maybe try soaking it briefly to settle the dust. Even if your friend is handling the hay, when you enter the stall there still may be dust floating around from it.

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    1. Yeah, it can be hard to convince some of them to let go of their neck and stretch down over their whole back. I’m hoping that by teaching this to Valiosa at an early stage, it will “stick” for later years. She can be very tight…
      Sadly my hay sensitivity is so bad that I react even in open air. Valiosa lives outside, eating from a haynet in a shelter, where I don’t spend much time, and I still have troubles. (Life, one long stretch of troubles haha 🙂


        1. Yes, can’t complain about that! Although I’m hoping, wishing, and holding out for this heat to finally END by now. Shouldn’t we be wearing cute fall sweaters or something? Sigh 😉


          1. Haha! Suppose so 🙂
            Honestly, I’ve become thin skinned, and wouldn’t last a true winter again.
            But… A nice, cable knit sweater, no clamminess down the back, and no urge to peel those darn breeches OFF NOW BEFORE THE SKIN MELTS, oh, sounds like heaven…


  2. Oh Elinor, I’m so sorry to read about the asthma. It sounds pretty serious. So frustrating to have your horse/ride time limited. I have migraines and they limit what I can do, too. Your list of “ways to manage” seems pretty good. Stick to it religiously. I have hay allergies and a wonky back as well as the migraines, so I can’t handle hay or lift heavy things any more. So annoying to have to step away from things one used to do so easily, but that is the cost of continuing to do this sport we love. You figure out how to do it in new ways. You are creative and you will find a way. Keep your eyes on the Big Picture of what you really want to do, and you’ll be able to let go of the smaller things and accept your body’s limitation. You still have so very many strengths and abilities! Valiosa looks so gorgeously grownup, by the way. Coming along beautifully.

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    1. Thank you for the comment about Valiosa! She’s definitely becoming a young adult!
      That part about sticking to the list – yes, that’s where I faulter. Feeling better, I’ll occasionally brush in the indoor cross ties, or sweep out the tack room, or grain room. Just can’t help my self! I love it when it looks well kept. Then of course, the lungs pay the price 😦
      Thank you for the encouragement, too. I’m sure for both of us, more limitations will creep up… I can imagine migraines are very frustrating, as they can come on so abruptly 😦 And put a halt to everything.
      We’ll carry on 🙂
      Worrysome to me is if I’m ever in a situation again where I’ll need to do all the hay handling on my own – knowing that will put an end to all the fun.


      1. Yep, it’s really hard to remember to be “good,” and not do the things that will set you back. Enough relapses will teach you, unfortunately, and it starts to become habit to avoid those things that will trigger your asthma. Or to always have a mask with you and to put it on. I have several horse friends with severe asthma and it has been difficult to manage, especially at this time of year when the air quality is poor. Do take care, as – like my back – it will get worse if you do not pay attention to it. As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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          1. I think there are lots of people doing this with asthma, but you have to be careful you aren’t making yourself worse, because it can become quite serious. Just take it seriously and you will be o.k. and can keep doing this for decades.

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  3. You poor thing 😦 I’ve been suffering from pleurisy recently, but to imagine having chest pain and restricted breathing all the time is sad! I’ve also found that using a facial steamer gives me some relief too. Hats off to you for keeping up with riding!!


    1. Ouch! That can be even more painful! Hoping it’s not long term. I sort of went down that road once with Pleural Effusion, and it was like having an elephant sitting on top at all times. We’ll both have to make the best of it. And keep riding! This morning, I’m heading out for a long bike ride up the hills with my husband 🙂 Different kind of saddle.

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  4. I have severe asthma and allergies .find a great Dr and get the meds. They make all the difference . it can be a matter of life or death. Not just riding or not riding. In warm climates bathe your horse instead of grooming. Learn not to be a fanatic about clean horses from head to feet. Dirty hocks won’t make your ride any different . use a wet cloth to remove dust from their back. Make your home , bdrm and car allergy free. Change clothes right after you leave the barn, shower too. I once had a bad spell where I could only ride, my family groomed, saddled and put my horse away. But the right drugs made the difference . long acting drugs are our friends. . best wishes .

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    1. Ahhh, thank you Carol!
      That’s just it, I need to get over the urge to do all the brushing… Hot enough here to go around for several more weeks(!), so wet towel it is.
      I will however have to tough this out on my own, my family would rather eat something vile like sardines than help tak up and put away my horse 😉


  5. My daughter has asthma too.
    Not fun, but, we have found a good cup of ginger tea daily helps. I just grate a 1/2″ of ginger root fine, boil water, and steep for 5 minutes (sometimes longer, if I forget it 😉 ), add honey, a few drops of cream, and she’s good to go.
    It doesn’t replace the meds, but it does supplement them. My girl has been able to half her steroid dosage since she started drinking this every day.

    Other than that, I’ll add to your list…after the steroid inhaler, rinse, rinse, rinse!!
    Those steroids are *horrible* for causing thrush infections in the mouth and throat, and the best way to combat it is a good mouth rinse out afterwards.

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    1. Yes, I’ve become very adamant about rinsing. Some say there can be a buildup after many years of using it (and some say to the contrary) and that the steroids from the inhaler can actually enter the bloodstream, which is not good long-term…


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