McLain Ward & Lee McKeever believe in steamed hay.

“We are overjoyed to have added the Haygain hay steamer to our program,” says McLain Ward, gold medal-winning jumper at the Olympic Games and World Equestrian Games.

Kim F Miller, equestrian journalist

“We are overjoyed to have added the Haygain hay steamer to our program,” says McLain Ward, gold medal-winning jumper at the Olympic Games and World Equestrian Games. It’s clear by now: steamed hay is scientifically proven to eliminate 98 percent of the dust, mold, fungi and bacteria that lurk in even high-quality hay. That’s why the team at McLain’s Castle Hill Farm purchased him to help Contagious, the horse with which McLain was selected to represent the United States at the Pan American Games.

Contagious is a relatively new horse on the McLain team, and despite some respiratory difficulties, he was performing great, taking victory in the $208,200 Upperville Classic CSI-4* held in early June.

“He has always had some difficulty breathing,” explains Lee McKeever, McLain’s stable manager of 31 years and 2018 winner of the FEI groom of the year title. “Since he has been eating the Steamed hay, his breathing has improved a lot: I would say starting five days from the beginning.”

McLain Ward steamed hay
McLain ward Steamed hay

“We noticed a rapid increase in the breathing quality of our horses, especially in those with respiratory problems.”

Later, Contagious suffered a minor injury that prevented him and McLain from participating in the PanAmerican Games, but not before determining how much the steamed hay helped. This is true even for the strongest horses, because respiratory conditions are surprisingly prevalent and often show no obvious symptoms. Research published last fall in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine reported that of the more than 700 active sport horses that participated in a three-year study, more than 88 percent suffered from inflammatory airway disease, commonly known as “equine asthma.”

Exactly like her fellow horsemen already converted to Haygain, including Beezie Madden and Margie Engle, the Castle Hill team travels often; so they appreciate Haygain’s ability to produce consistently clean hay.

“It’s great for everyday use, because when you travel a lot you never know the quality of the hay; at shows, for example, it can be really dusty. We try to keep our horses’ diets as regular as possible, and steamed hay helps keep the quality high.”

Protecting horses’ vulnerable airways and supporting those with pre-existing respiratory conditions is the starting point that led to the development of Haygain, but there are additional benefits that McLain and Lee noticed early on: “Haygain is easier to chew and digest, which is always a concern for the older horses living on my farm in Brewster, New York.”

Lee has even noticed that some of the pickiest eaters in the stable are enthusiastic about the Steamed hay, and eat it willingly. Haygain is super easy to use, even in the large Castle Hill stables: with between 25 and 35 horses, the purifier starts working with two shifts in the morning, followed by two more shifts later in the day. A half-bale model (HG ONE+) is suitable for the show circuit, and keeps the daily diet unchanged: “Just fill the boiler with water and plug it in,” explains Lee, who is enthusiastic about Haygain’s easy integration into the daily management of the riding arena.

McLain Ward is one of the most successful show jumpers and one of the most revered riders in the world. His many Olympic successes, World Equestrian Games, and World Cup riding tell a part of his story. His secret? love and respect for horses, as he explains:

“We owe them our lives. They give us so much and only ask for basic kindness in return. I think horses and human beings have a bond that draws them to each other. In their own way, they know we need them, and they are happy to be our partners in both work and sport. We must remember to never take this privilege of working and living with horses for granted. We must never lose our appreciation for what they have given us throughout the history of time, and we must be sure that their importance in our society does not fade. This is our greatest responsibility as equestrians.”

Haygain is committed to improving equine health through research and innovation in respiratory and digestive health. Developed by horsemen, for horsemen, Haygain understands the importance of clean forage in maintaining a horse’s overall well-being; therefore, they are recommended by many of the world’s leading equine riders, trainers and veterinarians.

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