Are you worried about your horse's breathing?  Equine Breathing can help!

Over breathing has a direct and damaging effect on the physiology which can result in symptoms such as headshaking, allergies and sweetitch.

What do your horse’s nostrils look like? Above on the left; normal nostril – relaxed and narrow. On the right; over breathing nostril – open and flared.

With Equine Breathing you can help the horse to reduce over breathing which enables the physiology to start to recover

This information is not a substitute for veterinary care

Why is my horse breathing heavy?

For answers view the video or read the articles below

This is the most frequently asked question and comes in different forms, including:

Why is my horse's breathing loud and heavy?

Why is my horse breathing hard and fast?

Why is my horse panting?

Why is my horse's breathing shallow and rapid?

Why does my horse breathe loud/heavy in hot weather?

Why does my horse breathe heavy / hard in exercise or work?

Why does my horse take a long time to recover its breathing after work or exercise?

Please note:- heavy or fast breathing may be a sign of pain - check with your vet


More FAQs

General FAQs

Over breathing is where more air is taken into the lungs than normal. Over breathing becomes a habit and chronic over breathing is quite common in horses as it is in people. A horse can over breathe at high, low and normal breathing rates (bpm).

Over breathing has a direct, damaging and fundamental effect on the physiology which can result eventually, in a wide range of symptoms. These include symptoms such as sweet-itch, headshaking and lack of energy which are not generally thought to be related to breathing.

Over breathing becomes more obvious when the horse is active or worked, with loud, heavy or even difficult breathing. The over breathing horse may take a long time to recover after exercise.

The horse may lack energy, or alternate between high energy adrenalised behaviour and lethargy.

Over breathing becomes more obvious in warm or hot conditions.  Read more in this article 

Extreme cold may increase breathing.

Looking at the nostrils, normal optimal breathing is imperceptible at rest, with no movement or sound. The nostril is narrow, slit like and relaxed. Whereas movement or flaring of the nostril during the in breath or noisy breathing indicates over breathing and the nostril tends to be round and open.

Read more in this article

If your horse has chronic symptoms such as allergies, headshaking or sweet-itch;  or behavioural problems such as anxiety, excitability, nervousness, irritability, aggression, windsucking, weaving, box walking etc then they over breathe. If they do not have symptoms there are certain signs and clues that indicate over breathing, including the shape and performance of the nostrils and more.

Over breathing signs

Horses that over breathe don't get enough oxygen. This is because the body needs carbon dioxide to enable it to use oxygen, but over breathing reduces carbon dioxide levels.

To get more oxygen the horse needs to reduce its breathing in order to improve carbon dioxide levels. But over breathing is linked to adrenaline production in a vicious cycle, the one increasing the other. So the over breathing tends to get worse over time unless it's addressed.

When a horse over breathes they use more of their lung capacity at rest and therefore have less potential to increase lung capacity during exercise.

For more on the respiration physiology see How does it work?

Yes, with Equine Breathing training the horse is able to reduce their breathing back down towards normal and this enables the physiology to recover.

Over breathing reduces oxygen availability so that muscle cells are more readily starved of oxygen and have to go on to anaerobic respiration instead. This provides only a tiny fraction of the energy produced by aerobic respiration when oxygen is available - and this results in low energy levels and lethargy

For more on the respiration physiology see How does it work?

Horses with symptoms over breathe. Many people do not realise that over breathing has a direct and damaging effect on the physiology which can eventually manifest in any of a wide a range of symptoms.

If you don't believe this you could give yourself symptoms in a minute or so just by over breathing! Simply take very big rapid breaths until you feel the effects. Remember to breathe gently afterwards to reverse the effects. However, I don't recommend that you actually try this as it's not good for you, and certainly don't do it if you have a medical condition.

There are numerous ways in which the biochemical changes resulting from over breathing impair the physiology so that normal healthy functioning is compromised.

For more on the respiration physiology see How does it work?

You can help your horse by doing Equine Breathing with them. Owners report good success with COPD and other breathing problems, and it's easy to try Equine Breathing using the free instructions for 1N.

Improving (reducing) the breathing helps the horse to breathe more easily and get more oxygen and it reduces adrenaline production so it's soothing for them.

More about COPD / asthma

Every horse is different so there is no set time but if you do 1N for 30 minutes a day for a week I would expect you to be able to start to see the effect. People commonly report a reduction in symptoms fairly soon,  but it can take much longer for the symptoms to disappear completely and longer still for the body to heal completely.

Excessive snorting or yawning are signs of over breathing. Over breathing is damaging to the physiology and can lead to symptoms so even if your horse has no other symptoms at the moment, I would encourage you to reduce the over breathing to relieve the excessive yawning / snorting.

It's easy to start Equine Breathing using the free instructions for 1N

Equine Breathing is simply a way of training breathing back towards normal levels. It enables owners to help their horse recover from chronic ailments and behavioural problems. Equine Breathing is natural and holistic. It is not a veterinary procedure and anyone can do it using the free instructions for the basic technique of 1N. Equine Breathing is soothing and relaxing and horses enjoy it.

See more

A common problem in horses (and people) is chronic over breathing. It is damaging to the physiology and can result in chronic symptoms.

Equine Breathing works by training the over breathing back towards normal levels. The damaging effects of over breathing on the physiology are reversible. As the breathing is improved, the physiology improves and the body heals itself. This process is known as holistic healing and it's very different from treating specific symptoms with drugs or procedures. Equine Breathing is relaxing and enjoyable for the horse which further adds to the beneficial biochemical improvements.

It costs absolutely nothing to do Equine Breathing using the 1N method. It's easy to learn from the free instructions.

If you find that 1N benefits your horse but you don't have time to do as much as you and your horse would like, then you can buy a Breather for a more powerful and efficient effect. These come with their own training video.

See more

It's not usually necessary to get help from an Equine Breathing Trainer. Most people can do Equine Breathing using the free instructions and videos for 1N and then if they would like more help there's a 30 minute 1N training video

Those then wanting a more efficient and effective method can buy a Breather - all designs come with their own training videos and include support by email and phone.

There's also a range of courses available including telephone and skype courses

There are facebook support groups for headshaking, COPD / asthma, sweetitch and windsucking / cribbing

Clare is always happy to answer queries and provide support to anyone using or thinking of trying Equine Breathing.

[email protected]

All Weather Breather FAQs

When I put on the AW for the first time my horse shakes / nods his head, rubs the Breather, snorts, flehmens (lifts the top lip) or fidgets.

Short answer; Some horses do this but it doesn’t usually last long and when the horse becomes accustomed to the improved breathing they then enjoy wearing the AW. You can speed up this process by walking your horse until they become calm and drowsy or letting them eat grass or hay. Sometimes a horse will be able to enjoy the AW more quickly if they are away from the owner so it’s worth seeing if they settle once they are out in the field grazing. If after trying these things the horse is still fidgety, then follow the instructions in Section 3 ‘What to Expect’ in the AW training video,

Long answer. Over breathing is a bad (and unhealthy) habit.  Chronic bad habits can be difficult to change at first.

If a horse has symptoms they’re over breathing. Chronic over breathing has a direct and damaging effect on the physiology and so the body has to institute mechanisms to prevent serious consequences. These ‘compensatory mechanisms’  put the body into an equilibrium. Improving the breathing by putting on the AW is beneficial but it can be difficult  for the body to be nudged out of its equilibrium.  The body may respond by either trying to avoid the help provided by the AW or by countering it. So a horse may try and remove the AW or may try to re-establish the habitual (but not healthy) equilibrium by increasing the over breathing through coughs, snorts or sneezes. The horse may even wind itself up to increase adrenaline which also increases the breathing again.

Humans can cough, giggle, yawn or sneeze when they start to improve their breathing. This is probably due to the body trying to retain the old habitual and unhealthy equilibrium.

No not if the AW is used according to instructions. Equine Breathing is a method that brings the excessive breathing back towards NORMAL with gentle training techniques. The AW is a particularly mild Breather.

As the breathing improves the horse starts to heal. It is then possible that the AW can stimulate healing to reach its maximum capacity and so further training is not needed or welcome for a short period. This is called ‘clearing’. The AW is designed so that the horse can easily lift up the AW or remove it completely if the healing rate becomes high enough to stimulate a clearing. Full details of healing responses and how to manage them are in the AW training video section 3 ‘What to expect’.

There are two possible reasons. One is that the horse gets an itchy nose and in rubbing the itch inadvertently opens the Velcro straps. The reason a horse might get an itchy nose when they start wearing the AW is explained in the AW training video section 3 ‘What to expect’

The second is if the AW stimulates the healing rate to reach the maximum possible. At this point the excretory organs can no longer keep up with processing the waste products of healing (called a clearing) and the horse wants to slow down the healing so that the excretory organs can catch up. It’s very important that the AW is worn exactly as shown in the instructions so that the horse can remove it if they want to. This is explained in the AW training video section 3 ‘What to expect’.

It is also possible that a playful field mate might pull the AW and remove it. Unfortunately the horse’s teeth may damage the AW and it might be found in a chewed state.

These can all be signs that the AW is being effective in helping the horse’s physiology to improve, or in other words part of the healing process. This is explained in more detail in the AW training video section 3 ‘What to expect.

The AW accentuates the noise of the breathing so in the beginning the breathing may sound louder than usual.

But sometimes a horse might suddenly start puffing and breathe more loudly in the AW. This could signify that the horse is doing intensive healing especially if the horse looks happy and relaxed as in this video. At some point the intensive healing phase will end along with the puffing.

If the horse continues to enjoy wearing the AW through this phase there’s no need to stop using the AW. If the horse appears to be ill or discomforted then as in any other case you should call your vet.

If your horse is on veterinary drugs you must continue using them as prescribed. When you see a significant reduction in symptoms and improvements in health then you must discuss with your vet a drugs step down program to follow as the horse continues to improve.

Supplements can be very necessary when the horse is over breathing to the point of showing symptoms. After starting use of the AW and beginning to heal, at some point the horse is likely to no longer need the supplements. Giving unnecessary supplements can be a burden on the excretory organs. It’s therefore a good idea to offer the supplements to the horse separately in a bucket so that they can take them if they need them. People often report that the horse takes them at first but at some point they just stop taking them.

These are actually two different things. Both are dependent on the individual horse and their own specific circumstances. Symptoms tend to disappear early on in the healing process but healing continues for a long time after this and the horse does not recover optimal breathing until the healing process has finished. It may not even be possible for some horses to complete the healing process depending on their circumstances but hopefully they can at least become symptom free. Symptoms may start to reduce almost immediately, or often in a week or two. But it’s very variable how long it takes for them to disappear completely.

See the AW training video section 4 ‘How long to continue’ for more details.

This of course depends on your horse and circumstances. In my view if the symptoms are a nuisance to the horse and get worse when the horse is ridden then I think it’s best to give the horse time to improve using the AW, and not ride until the symptoms have become mild.

However, continuous gentle exercise such as grazing, is conducive to healing. If grazing is not practical then living on a track, time spent with other horses etc is better than enforced inactivity.

Walking out in hand or gentle ground work in a school are also beneficial until the horse is well enough to be ridden.

Itching is not an uncommon healing response in horses, and can be part of the healing process. However, as always, consult your vet if you are in any doubt. Itching can be a common sign of the healing response called ‘clearing’ where the rate of healing has reached the maximum capacity for the horse at that point in time. If your horse suddenly declines the AW having previously enjoyed it then they are probably clearing and you need to give them a few days off to allow the excretory organs to catch up with the healing process.

Make sure that you offer sufficient unrefined salt as the horse may want more than usual and also it can sometimes help relieve itching. Healing responses, including how to recognise and manage, them are covered in more detail in the AW training video section 3 ‘What to expect.