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pony rubbing mane

Sweet-itch

It's distressing when a horse rubs itself raw and sweet itch spoils the summer for many horse owners. Some horse owners have found that Equine Breathing training helps their horse recover from sweet itch and helps the horse cope with the symptoms. Equine Breathing training works to improve the horse's physiology and this may be why the horse becomes less susceptible to sweet itch.

Please note that Equine Breathing training is not a substitute for veterinary advuce, diagnosis or treatment

How can breathing affect sweet itch?

Horses with sweet itch have an immune reaction to the saliva of midges. Many horses are bitten by midges but only some have this reaction. That's commonly the case with immune reactions - the trigger (in this case midge saliva) may be present but it doesn't always cause an immune reaction. There is a threshold to be passed before the immune response kicks in. Reducing the concentration of the trigger (by for example use of a sweet-itch rug or cover to protect against midge bites) can bring it down below the threshold level. But different horses have different thresholds and it may be very difficult to reduce the trigger to a sufficiently low level.

It is thought that in humans sustained stress acts to lower the threshold for immune reactions. The mechanisms for this are not properly understood and indeed there is much we don't understand about immune reactions. For example the UK Food Standards Agency has just commissioned a major research study on the effect of extrinsic factors (exercise and stress) on thresholds for peanut allergies to quantify the effects.




At Equine Breathing we believe that horses that are over-breathing are placing a continuous stress on their bodies. It may be that the beneficial effects on sweet itch reported by owners using the Equine Breathing training is related to the general improvement in the physiology of the horse as the stresses of over breathing diminish.

This remains conjecture and each horse is different but as some owners report positive results you may wish to try Equine Breathing to see for yourself if your horse benefits using the free IN method (see below).

You can sometimes tell if your horse is over-breathing. The nostrils will be wide and move with each breath and their breathing may be audible. In normal breathing the nostril is slit shaped, there is no movement at rest and the breathing is silent. More on signs of over breathing.

What to do about it

Start doing Equine Breathing! It costs nothing. You can start right now using the free instructions for 1N which is easy to do and horses enjoy it.

If you find 1N is beneficial and would like to know more about running an effective 1N Equine Breathing program you can buy the Starter Guide which costs little but is packed with info.

If you find that 1N is beneficial but you can not do as much as you and your horse would like there are Breathers available to give you a more powerful effect and more flexible approach.

Breathers can also provide relief over long periods including when symptoms are worst such as dawn and dusk. Any of the three Breathers is good depending on which best suits your management regime.

Horses seem to gain significant relief from sweet itch symptoms quite quickly on starting Equine Breathing, but full recovery may take months or even years. However, with a Breather, Equine Breathing can easily become part of your daily routine.

Continue to use any treatments that you find effective, and measures (such as Boett blanket) until the horse is comfortable and then use a step down program as advised by your vet, for veterinary treatments or gradually reduce other measures as the symptoms disappear.

Meg's recovery from sweet itch

Meg's sweet itch was causing her so much distress that she had become dangerous to handle. She was too agitated to stand still, barged off if she could, head butted, pawed the ground and had even started biting her owner. She had sores like this over 60% of her body.

The sweet itch symptoms started to reduce after the first day of Equine Breathing (see the chart below) and continued to improve.

Meg also regained her natural happy and friendly disposition much to owner Debbie's relief.

sweet itch sores before trial


After 6 months of Equine Breathing, Meg's coat was healthy with no itching or soresAfter 6months no sores