Heathy horse barns
Horses don’t need the Taj Mahal to live in, but their barn should be comfortable. This includes a stall for each horse that is at least twelve-feet-by-twelve-feet, and kept at a temperature that is similar to the outside temperature.
Becky Bott is an Extension equine specialist at South Dakota State University. She says a healthy, safe horse barn also includes fire prevention.
"We encourage having fire extinguishers placed frequently throughout the length of the barn, and storing hay in a separate building from where horses are living when possible," says Bott. "Hay is easily combustible and that’s a fire hazard. So moving that to another location minimizes fire risks, but it also has a benefit of reducing dust in the horse barn as well. Dust is another one of those things that we think about as something to minimize in order to increase the healthfulness of a barn."
Dust can get into the horse’s respiratory system and cause coughing, wheezing, and nasal discharge. Good quality wood shavings are better than straw as bedding because they don’t produce as much dust. In general, the larger the shaving pieces, the better.
Respiratory problems can also be linked to nitrogen that’s digested and excreted by the horse. Excess nitrogen reduces the quality of air, and you know that’s happening when you walk into the barn and smell ammonia.
"There’s a few strategies. You can use ample bedding to help soak up the urine, clean stalls regularly, and work with an equine nutritionist to meet rather than to exceed your horse’s dietary requirement," says Bott. "And then from a barn design standpoint, we understand that a lot of barns are under-ventilated which can contribute to pneumonia and respiratory problems."
Good airflow from windows, vents, or a cupola helps reduce moisture in the barn, which will also lower the risk of respiratory illnesses.
General tips for keeping your horse comfy in the barn
Ideas for ventillation systems in horse barns
Dust management in horse facilities
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