Latex in some riding surfaces could contribute to the risk of severe equine asthma (sEA) — but more research is needed.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Royal Agricultural University and the University of Nottingham, funded by Haygain and the Fred and Marjory Sainsbury Trust, aimed to identify allergens associated with sEA. The scientists assessed the presence of specific antibodies to almost 400 allergenic proteins in the blood of 138 healthy horses and horses with sEA.
A mathematical model was used to rank the allergens to determine whether horses were affected.
Results confirmed previously identified allergens such as those found in mould, and dust, but also identified those found in natural rubber latex.
It found four of the top six allergens had latex molecules. These can be inhaled in dust from some riding surfaces.
Lead researcher Samuel White told H&H it was the widest allergen assessment in sEA horses to date, and latex was “surprising”.
“Before we say it is a definite risk we need further research to look at exposure levels, and at the effect latex molecules have on the immune system,” he said.
Mr White said by identifying allergens, owners can implement “effective avoidance regimes”.
“If we’re able to identify allergens we can avoid them — the cornerstone to effective treatment — and it enables advancements in diagnostics and treatment.
“By liaising with manufacturers we could identify potential risk factors or concerns so we can remedy them where possible and produce a surface that optimises health, welfare and performance,” he said.
David Rendle, equine internal medicine specialist and member of the British Equine Veterinary Association health and medicines committee, told H&H the study is “very interesting” but added it would be rash to draw conclusions on using artificial surfaces.
“The presence of antibodies does not confirm a significant role in disease, and further studies are warranted to corroborate these findings and confirm a link with lung pathology,“ he said.
“It is likely airborne pollutants in the stable will remain the major factor in sEA, and owners of horses with or without signs of airway disease should continue to focus on improving air hygiene in stables while taking reasonable precautions to reduce dust in schools and other outdoor areas.”
A spokesman for Andrews Bowen Ltd told H&H the surface manufacturer does not use rubber in its formulated surfaces.
“The dust from its breakdown not only blackens the surface but has a negative effect on the environment. We think it is positive to work with experts for surfaces that give the best results for horse and rider.”
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