What the air quality index (AQI) means for your horse

Check this indicator of ground-level ozone, particulate matter, heat and humidity, before asking your horse to exert himself on hot days.
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The air quality index (AQI) is an important consideration for people with respiratory disorders during the summer months. This index, an indicator of ground-level ozone, particulate matter, heat and humidity, runs from 0 to 500 with corresponding color codes. Higher values are associated with more pollution and greater health concerns. On days when the AQI is high, children, the elderly and individuals with asthma or other health problems are advised to limit their physical activity. AQI considerations also apply to horses. Here’s what each color means and how to adjust accordingly:

A woman riding a reining horse on a hot summer day.

On days when air quality is poor, limit your riding activities during the heat of the day

Green (AQI from 0 to 50) means the air quality is good and all activities for all horses are appropriate.

Yellow (AQI from 51 to 100) indicates moderate air quality. Limit horses with acute heaves or those recovering from respiratory illness to slow walks.

Orange (AQI from 101 to 150) indicates the air is unhealthy for horses with a history of heaves, even if they aren’t in the midst of a flare-up. Limit the activity of these horses.

Red conditions (AQI from 151 to 200) are unhealthy for any horse. Ride only at a slow walk or skip riding altogether. (Purple or maroon conditions—AQI from 201 to 500—are even worse.)

Click here to learn what three things to investigate when your horse is uneasy in the trailer.

Even if they aren’t going to be ridden or otherwise worked, check on horses with a history of respiratory troubles during the heat of the day to ensure they are breathing comfortably. If a horse appears to be stressed or having trouble breathing, move him into a cooler environment if possible and call your veterinarian.

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