Air Ventilation and Breathing Issues in Horse Barns

As we ask our horses to do more and more athletically it makes sense that we need to become more knowledgeable about the ways in which the management choices we make can have a very real bearing on how well our horses perform. Ventilation in barns is one of the most important factors in horse health and performance.

Most horse owners are aware horses need fresh air but they have difficulty realizing that the environment in which they feel comfortable may not be the same as the best one for their horse. The truth is – horses need fresh air and are generally more comfortable at cooler temperatures.

In years past horse barns were not frequently designed exclusively for horses and may have been originally constructed to store grain or hay, keeping whatever was inside dry may have taken precedence over creating a good airflow. Not that you need to allow your horse to get wet to have good ventilation!  Years ago, barns were also designed to be dark because it was believed it kept the animals quieter.

Today we want to give our horses the advantages of modern construction but too often apply what we like in our homes to the horses’ environment.  Most equine experts recognize that barns should be open and airy– you should create a barn that allows the air to move through it easily with large windows and doors that can be adjusted as the weather changes. This information sheet from Penn State Extension has some great ideas about how to create a well-ventilated barn.

One of the most innovative approaches to proving clean air for horses is the BioOx system first introduced to the horse world by Bodie Miller at his thoroughbred race training facility here in Maryland. I was able to take a tour of this barn and see the system firsthand and it was like walking in a mountain meadow, the air was so clean and crisp – it was truly amazing. The system helps improve the air quality in a poorly ventilated barn and serves as an additional boost in an already well-ventilated facility. It works by capturing particulates within a specialized all-natural solution, making contaminants like dust, ammonia, bacteria and viruses innocuous. Check out the website here

If you would like more information about equine breathing issues there is an excellent article on TheHorse website that outlines many of the issues breathing issues horses face and how their respiratory systems function.  Check it out here

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Shelly Ingram

I am a third generation horsewoman; My father operated a 50 horse boarding and training facility in northern California, where he specialized in re-training spoiled horses. I was his demonstration rider and general assistant in all aspects of running the ranch. I went on to work for several major show and race horse trainers, eventually opening my own barn where I focused on Junior and Amateur riders. I have trained numerous champion horses and riders on all levels and in variety of disciplines. I have also worked as a journalist and have more than a decade of experience in land use planning.

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