Horse Stable Ventilation

Horse Stable Ventilation

Inadequate ventilation is the most common mistake made in modern horse facilities. The objective of ventilation is to get fresh air to the horse.

Although horse enthusiasts have a wide variety of riding-driving disciplines, breeds, and interests, all agree that good air quality inside their horse’s stable is important. Veterinarians and professional horse handlers recommend good ventilation for stabled horses to maintain respiratory health. We know that the stable should smell like fresh forage and clean horses rather than manure or ammonia. Yet, failure to provide adequate ventilation is the most common mistake made in construction and management of modern horse facilities. Why would such a universally agreed upon feature be overlooked in stable design? Are we placing human needs over horse comfort? Have building designers and owners lost perspective of the features of a well-ventilated stable? There is a trend toward residential construction practices in horse housing. Horses are considered livestock when it comes to housing design, despite the fact that they are our companions and pets. This publication outlines proven practices of ventilation that have been successfully used in maintaining good air quality in horse facilities. Although the emphasis is on stables with box stalls to each side of a central aisle, the principles are equally effective in Inadequate ventilation is the most common mistake made in modern horse facilities. maintaining good air quality in other stable layouts and in run-in sheds or indoor riding arenas.


What is Ventilation?

The objective of ventilation is to provide fresh air to the horse. Ventilation is achieved by simply providing sufficient openings in the building so that fresh air can enter and stale air will exit. There are ways to provide each stabled horse with access to fresh air all the time. The stable will have “holes” in it to admit air; it cannot be constructed tight as a thermos bottle like our own homes. Compared to our homes, stables have much more moisture, odor, mold, and dust being added to the air, not to mention manure being deposited within the facility. Ventilation is needed to remove heat from the stable in hot weather. It is beneficial to provide a cooling breeze over the horse, which is more comfortable than hot, still air. During warm weather the stable doors and windows are usually open to aid in moving air through the stable. During cold weather, the stable is often managed with closed windows and doors to keep chilling winter winds off the horse. In winter, the ventilation goal changes from heat removal to controlling moisture, odor, and ammonia that have built up in the more closed environment of the stable. Moisture comes from horse respiration and other stable activities such as horse bathing and facility cleaning. With moisture buildup, comes increased risk of condensation, intense odor, more ammonia release, and pathogen viability, which contributes to respiratory infection.

The objective of ventilation is to get fresh air to the horse.

Ventilation involves two simple processes (Figure 1). One is “air exchange,” where stale air is replaced with fresh air, and the second is “air distribution,” where fresh air is available throughout the stable. Proper ventilation provides both; one without the other is not adequate ventilation. For example, it is not good enough to let fresh air into the stable through an open door at one end of the building if that fresh air is not distributed throughout the horse stalls. Nor is proper ventilation satisfied if a tightly closed stable uses interior circulation fans to move stale air around the facility.

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