Currently, heaves is investigated by exposing susceptible horses to dusty hay. Consequently, the response will be dependent on the organic dust content and composition of the hay. It was hypothesised that the use of a hay dust suspension (HDS) would reduce the variability of the challenge and therefore standardise experimental protocols. Furthermore, analysis of HDS would also permit further investigation of the organic dust components responsible for the response. Three hay dust suspensions (HDS-1, 2 and 3) were prepared for use in the diagnosis and investigation of heaves. HDS were produced from fine dust particles, comprising mostly fungal spores, collected from 3 batches of dusty hay. HDS-1 and 3 were analysed for endotoxin, P-D-glucan and protein concentrations, general protease activity and enumeration and size distribution of particulates. Protease activity was mainly attributable to a 28kDa serine protease and to 85kDa and 160kDa metalloproteases. The particulate and soluble components of HDS could be aerosolised by jet nebulisation. We therefore conclude that detailed analysis of HDS is possible, that such a challenge system provides a method of standardising experimental protocols and that all components of HDS (both soluble and particulate) can be delivered to the lung using standard nebulisation techniques. For the above reasons, nebulised HDS offers considerable advantages over conventional hay/straw challenge for the diagnosis and investigation of heaves.