Respiratory/Barn Conditions for Your Horses


By: Madeline Reich

With the weather continuing to get colder, we start to be extra aware of the conditions inside our barn. The temperature, dryness and quality of air inside the barn is crucial to horses’ comfort and breathing. So what is the best way to set up are barn so that horses are most comfortable?

Horses are often kept up in their stalls more than normal during these winter months because of bad weather conditions that do not allow for safe turnout. Horses need to get fresh air in and out of the barn even when they are kept up in their stall. So where most people would think you should shut all your barn doors to keep the warm in, they should actually be kept open for better airflow. We are also familiar with the concept that heat rises. When you shut your barn doors and close off all the air flow, all the warm air in the barn will rise and actually make it cooler. Keep the air flow in your barn for more fresh air and a consistent temperature.

Ventilation is one of the most important factors. Bedding, hay and urine can have negative affects on your horse if they are kept in and enclosed area with no airflow for a long time. Just think about how uncomfortable you are when trying to clean a stall with urine and bedding dust flying all in your face and nose. We do not want horses in those same conditions; the ammonia fumes can be bad for and uncomfortable to the horses. So on top of keeping your doors open to your barn no matter the temperature, clean stalls are going to help your horses respiratory system be comfortable and healthy.

According to “poor air quality is the culprit of performance-limiting allergic responses in older horses (usually lumped under the term COPD, for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and more commonly called “heaves” or “broken wind”), as well as a similar response in humans (sometimes called “farmer’s lung”). In addition, it recently has been implicated in certain types of non-allergic responses described as “small airway disease,” which tend to affect younger horses and can have a major impact on athletic efforts on the racetrack or in the show ring.”

So remember, your horses are a lot more tolerant of the cold weather than we are. So when you think that closing your barn doors is doing your cold body a favor, it is actually worsening the conditions for your horses. The more ways that you can increase the air flow in the barn, with out your barn being drafty, the better your horses health will be and the better they will perform for you.