Steamed hay has been an important component of the remarkable achievements of Buck Davidson’s Breyer horse “Celebration.”
Kim F Miller, Equestrian Journalist
Buck Davidson was one of the first Americans to switch to Haygain, having joined America 11 years ago. His high-performance partner Ballynoe Castle R.M. (known as Reggie), a perennial fan favorite, faced unique respiratory challenges: a “lazy larynx” for which it was a miracle he competed at all levels and became a champion. Over the course of multiple surgeries and the careful management practices that followed them, Buck confirms that the Steamed hay has indeed been a game changer for Reggie. The now 19-year-old Irish Sporthorse retired from competition in 2017, but strategies to keep him comfortable and able to perform at his peak are now fixed in the mind of the World Equestrian Games winner.
“I loved Haygain from the beginning. It was obviously a help for Reggie, and I eventually extended it to all my horses. It’s a great resource for them, they all seem to be better off with the steamed hay, and we have fewer problems.”Buck Davidson
While all his horses benefit from steamed hay, for Reggie it has been an important part of truly critical treatment at certain times in his career. “Exhaustion of strength” and slightly noisy breathing were early indicators of Reggie’s breathing problems when he was six and seven years old, Buck explains. The final diagnosis was laryngeal hemiplegia, also called “lazy larynx,” in which the larynx that connects the nasal passage to the trachea does not function well. A normal larynx lets air pass and protects the trachea when the horse swallows. But Reggie’s was not normal, hence his easy fatigue and noisy breathing.
Laser surgeries kept Reggie going for a while, But yet another attempt to perform a prosthetic laryngoplasty failed because previous surgeries had caused atrophy of the larynx cartilage. The next step was more drastic: an arytenoidectomy, in which the paralyzed arytenoid cartilage is removed, opening the passage to the trachea. This surgery was effective for Reggie: “Since then, his career has really taken off,” Buck says about the surgery performed by Dr. Eric Parente at New Bolton Center Veterinary Hospital in Pennsylvania. But the risk of complications was considerable.
“The risk of infection and pneumonia was always around the corner,” Buck says. There was a possibility that food would go down the wrong pipe and enter the lungs, so cleaning Reggie’s hay was crucial. Developed in collaboration with the Royal Agricultural University of Cirencester, England, Haygain is proven to eliminate through purification by high-temperature steam, 98 percent of dust, mold, bacteria and fungi. All of these are responsible for respiratory problems for horses with normal respiratory function, and potentially lethal for Reggie.
“It was mandatory to purify the hay. Right after cooking, I noticed that there wasn’t as much trash as before. I felt like we were putting clean fuel into Reggie’s engine.”Buck Davidson
After his consecration at the 2020 BreyerFest “Celebration,” Reggie is now enjoying his retirement. She divides her time between her owners on the New Jersey farm and winter in Florida with Buck and longtime beloved groom Kathleen Murray.
“He should never have competed as well as he did during two World Games, at Kentucky or Badminton, or been the winningest horse in America when he retired,” reflects Buck Davidson. “But he had the heart of a lion and was well kept.” Haygain is proud to have been part of the management that made this possible.
Full Steam ahead into the future
While Reggie enjoys the life of luxury in the pasture, Buck Davidson is always on top of his game with a series of new horses. He replaced his first Haygain model with an HG2000 to be kept at Chesterland Farm, Pennsylvania, while for trips he uses a half-bale HG600, which travels easily. While he and his team are well aware of the benefits of Steamed hay, everyone is careful to understand
Steam “injected” evenly throughout the hay reaches the necessary temperatures-between 86°C and 100°C-to kill bacteria, mold and fungi. This process requires a power supply that must be best studied before travel. TheHG600 uses a 1500-watt power circuit for its steam generators, with voltage at 110/120 and power at 50/60 Hertz. It should be connected directly to the power source, and not to an extension cord.
Most racing environments have an adequate power supply for the HG600, but that power can be drained when other equipment-fans, refrigerators, microwaves, etc.-is present. Generators are a viable option; in fact, most housing trailers have generators powerful enough to run a HG600.