A Guide to Ventilation for your Horse



If you’ve been keeping up to date with the news of late, chances are you’ll be aware of the focus being placed on air quality. We’re told London’s January air quality was the best in 10 years. As far as humans are concerned, it seems the penny may just be starting to drop when it comes to the importance of clean air – but what about our equine population?

If you’re a race horse breeder or private horse owner, the wellbeing of your horse is paramount. And for your horse to remain healthy, it’s not just about the food it eats or the exercise it gets, but the amount of fresh air it has access to. Quite simply, ventilation is crucial in ensuring sufficient openings in a stable, stall, or riding arena, allow fresh air to enter and stale air to exit.

What should my ventilation do?
Quite how your ventilation system should work can be very different between summer and winter. As you’ll know only too well, in the summer, the priority is removing heat and providing a cooling breeze over the horse for added comfort. This generally means keeping doors and windows open to aid air movement – but that isn’t quite so easy in the winter months. Horses might be more tolerant of low temperatures than humans, but they’re also sensitive to draughts, so finding the right balance is vital.

In winter, a 500kg horse will require 42.5 cubic metres of air per hour to remove moisture, whereas in summer, this requirement will be up to 595 cubic metres per hour. Circulating air in these volumes is hugely important, which is where your ventilation system comes in.

Winter ventilation: moisture control
In winter, the ventilation priority changes from heat reduction to controlling moisture, odours, and ammonia – all of which can be harmful to the horse. Failure to do so can have the following consequences:
• Increased risk of condensation
• Intense odour
• Higher ammonia release and pathogen viability
• Raised chances of respiratory infection

How should a stable ventilation system work?
A typical ventilation system for a horse stable or other equine facility is there to do two things: replace stale air with fresh air, and ensure that fresh air is evenly distributed throughout the stable. One without the other is completely inadequate, so if you’re thinking about keeping your horses healthy through air, you need to ensure your ventilation system does both.

horse barn ventilation

What types of stable ventilation systems are available?
Broadly speaking, if you’re looking to install a ventilation system which keeps your horses healthy, you have three options: a ducted system, a custom built mechanical system, or internal ventilation.

1. Ducted system: efficient stable ventilation
One effective method of air distribution is to install fans capable of meeting that maximum requirement 595 cubic metres of air per hour, and adjusting the speed of the fans to provide the minimum requirements when applicable.

The fans within a tube ventilation system pressurise a length of ducting with graduated holes to provide an overall even distribution of the air inside the building. If you’re the owner of a stable, the tube ventilation system is an efficient ventilation method as it has the advantage of the air being discharged over the fixtures and fittings within the building.

The air exits the building through correctly sized, controlled outlets installed in each loose box area. In larger buildings, where more than one fan is required, these can be spread across the width of the building, with a fan at each end with its own individual duct.

This system can be retro-fitted to existing buildings and is particularly suited to those where loose boxes are situated in the centre without any air provision. It can also reduce damp, although you will need to be mindful of moderate heating costs to keep the system running.

2. Custom Built Mechanical System: ideal for new buildings
If you’re in the process of having a new building constructed, consideration should be given to mechanical ventilation with roof mounted fans in trunks and inlets in the side walls. The speed of the fans, controllable from 10% to 100%, should be linked to the aperture of the inlets to provide an overall air speed that can distribute air within the building without causing draughts.

In winter, fans should operate at low speeds with the inlets having a small open area to force air upwards and mix with internal warm air, becoming tempered before falling onto the animal and floor area. The stale and moist air is drawn up through the shafts and expelled from the building through open outlets that are covered to prevent the ingress of rain.

By contrast, in summer, the fan should increase to maximum speed where necessary. The inlets will open accordingly, rotating over the centre and forcing some of the incoming air to be driven directly to the floor area, before rising with the stale air to be expelled via the roof mounted extract units. Any unoccupied, loose boxes, can be isolated by locking the inlets closed.

3. Internal Ventilation: for existing buildings which are difficult to adapt
It may be that you are working in an existing building which isn’t quite as easy to adapt. In that case, improved ventilation can be achieved by installing internal recirculation fans, or turbulator recirculation fans. These units can be suspended from convenient overhead beams and will create a gentle air movement throughout the building, dispersing any areas of stagnant air. Although these units do not introduce fresh air to the building, they do improve the comfort of housed horses.

Turbulator recirculation fans can also be used in conjunction with either a ducting or mechanical system in more inaccessible areas of the building to improve comfort of both the animals and workers.

Help from the experts
While this guide may have given you an insight into the importance of ventilation for your horses, and the options available, experts are on hand to guide you through the process. Whether it’s supplying a new stable ventilation system or simply offering advice on what might be best for your stable stall, or riding area, our team of experts here at Hydor have a wealth of experience in agricultural ventilation, so contact us here today to find out more.


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