Housing your horse
The horse spends approximately 22 hours
per day in its stable. Stable design and
management can have direct effects on the health of horses. Perhaps the
appreciated diseases in this context are those affecting the horse's
being. However, the horse is more than just a set of lungs. The risks of
and indeed direct physical trauma can be increased by poorly designed
incidence of many of the so-called stable vices of horses can be increased
design. Stables themselves aside, problems may also arise from the design
positioning of ancillary buildings, such as feed- storage areas. Surfaces
passageways and walks around stables can also increase the risk of disease
TYPE OF STABLES:
There are four basic types of
stables. These are:-
4) Combination of 2) and 3)
Stables should not be positioned
near dust sources such as large hay sheds or grain
dryers. Trees in close proximity can cause problems with leaves blocking
alternatively, may be useful in providing a wind-break in exposed sites.
Boxes facing just east of
south, will get the benefit of morning sun, especially in winter.
Rows of boxes may be staggered down a slope or slight hill, again to get
of morning sun to all boxes. Avoid steep slopes, especially around corners
can slip over and injure themselves easily.
General recommendations for
dimensions of boxes are given in Table 1. Small
doorways increase the risk of horses injuring themselves. Sliding doors
very useful. Their safety and reliability have improved considerably and
hinged doors tend to block or decrease the available width of passageways.
Horses foaling or
3.6 x 3.6
5.0 x 5.0
Rear passageway (min.)
STABLE WARMTH AND
These factors are considered
together because of their inter-relationship. First it must
be appreciated that horses tolerate a wide range of temperatures. In an
building with low air movement, the only horses likely to experience cold
new born foals or young stock whose metabolic rates are low because of
malnutrition. These animals can undoubtedly be stressed by cold and an
of heat, such as a radiant heat lamp may be necessary. In climates such as
Canadian winter, supplemental heating is often used to prevent freezing of
etc. While general hypothermia is unlikely to be a problem for well fed
wearing rugs, local hypothermia, or regional chilling, especially of limbs
cold environments can be of concern in relation to comfort and the healing
- heat loss to or gained from the fluid moving over the body of the
- forced and natural
- cold winds and cold water currents
- depends on size (radius of limb or trunk)
- depends on a linear difference in temperature between the body surface
object in direct contact such as floors and bedding
- energy transfer between two objects accomplished by the exchange
- proportional to 4th power of temperature difference between the two
(highlights the benefits of rugs).
Increasing air movement
(draughts) around animals has a marked chilling effect,
especially if they are wet. Draughts at horse (or foal) height should be
This requires careful attention for the provision of ventilation.
There are three natural
forces of ventilation for stables:
1) The Stack effect, i.e. warm
air rising off the horse will rise up and leave the stable
drawing fresh air in.
2) Aspiration - wind blowing across the top of a stable will help to draw
stale air out.
3) Perflation - wind blowing from side to side and end to end of a
building will aid
Properly placed and adequately
sized vents and roof ducting are essential to make
full use of these forces. Guidelines for the requirements for natural
presented in Table 2 below. However, in designing new stables or improving
buildings, calculations for individual structures should be carried out.
exposed walls and extremes of weather likely to be met.
Table 2 shows that for most
loose-boxes an open top door will provide adequate inlet
area for natural ventilation. However, allowances must be made for the
situation when doors are closed. A permanent vent can be placed above the
Most boxes should have a back wall vent as well to ensure proper air
movement. For a monopitched roof, this should be high in the back wall.
a peaked roof should have a capped chimney or covered ridge to act as an
warm, stale air. Draughts can be cut down by baffling vents or covering
plastic mesh such as Netlon. This will also prevent the entry of rain or
boxes. It is critical to ensure thorough movement of air in a stable,
Requirements for natural ventilation of a typical barn & horse stalls
Surface area of building (m2)
height from inlets to outlets (m)
Ventilation rate at 4 ac/h (m3/sec)
Ventilation heat loss at 4 ac/h (W/C)
"U" value of
walls & roof (W/m2C)
Building heat loss (W/C)
Temperature gradient (C) at 4 ac/h
Required inlet area/horse (m2)
Required outlet area/horse (m2)
One of the benefits of insulating
stables is high lighted in Table 2. Insulation by
maintaining a slightly greater temperature difference between the inside
of the stable allows smaller openings to be used to provide adequate
in still air conditions. It must also be highlighted that the benefits of
insulation in terms
of warmth within an average stable will only be a matter of a few degrees
centigrade unless additional forms of heating are provided.
Another advantage of
insulation is that it will decrease the risk of condensation.
Condensation is a tell-tale sign of poor ventilation and is the cause of
staining which often occurs in the roofs of stables.
LIGHT AND BEHAVIORAL
Dark boxes where horses have little
visual contact with other horses are likely to lead
to behavioral problems. Box-weaving, wind-sucking and other vices often
begin out of
boredom. While one extreme approach, advocated by some, involves housing
in groups, simple approaches such as providing adequate provisions for
anti-weaving bars so that horses can put their heads out over the stable
door can be
Horses have evolved as
gregarious and free ranging animals. They spend approximately
60% of their time grazing and continually move over their home range
living together in
close knit herds. Stables horses are restricted to one or two hours
exercise per day,
have restricted social interaction and fed concentrated rations which are
consumed. In these conditions stables horses can develop sterotypiec,
characterized by bouts of frequently repeated, invariant and apparently
activities. Examples of these include licking, crib biting, weaving, box
pawing. These activities are apparently coping mechanisms for prolonged
frustration. Owners often find these behaviors "objectionable and
in other species the prevention of sterotypies by restricting the animals
been shown to significantly increase corticosteroid concentration. Some
to provision of a more stimulating environment, e.g. putting a goat or a
mirror or a
bouncy ball into the stable. Ultimately, the long term aim must be to
identify and provide
stimulating environments which help to prevent the development of
especially early in life.
Simple skylights can be
provided by clear corrugated perspex. Sunlight has the added
advantage of ultra-violet light, a natural killer of airborne bacteria and
viruses. In this
regard, plastic skylights with u/v pervious glass are superior to glass
since the latter
does not normally allow the penetration of u/v rays. As a general guide,
10% skylight area in a roof is suitable.
Decreasing hours of daylight
is the main stimulus for a horse to lose its summer coat
and conversely increasing hours of daylight lead to the loss of a winter
hours have been manipulated with artificial light in stables for many
years as a way of
bringing mares into season early in the year. The same technique can be
used to help
a horse lost its winter coat. Suitable light levels can be achieved using
lighting. It is essential to ensure appropriate levels of light int he
centre and the edges
of all boxes.
Ordinary fluorescent bulbs
providing between 100-200 lux (simple inexpensive light
meters are available) are suitable. Increasing day light hours up to
between 14 and 16
hours in late November is effective in stimulating the early onset of
there are times of light sensitivity and insensitivity during the day.
Anoestrus mares can
be stimulated to cycle earlier by adding 2.5 hours of artificial light
after sunset but before
sunrise. A one hour exposure 9 to 10 hours after natural sunset has also
been shown to
STRUCTURES AND FITTINGS:
Little thought is often given to
the design and positioning of feed storages. Dust
generated in these areas can be a health hazard for horses and humans.
air filter devices are essential for these areas if they are closed in.
Storage facilities for grain
and coarse mixes should be vermin proof and regularly
emptied completely and cleaned. The latter is especially important in
forage mite which damage feeds and can cause skin problems and gut upsets
horses fed contaminated feed.
A floor gradient of between 1
in 40m and 1 in 80 is required for adequate drainage.
Drains within stables should be simple and easily cleaned. Covered drains
pipes within stables clog quickly with most feed and bedding materials.
Muck pits are another
potential health hazard at stables. Mice and rats can be
attracted to muck-pits. Used plant-based bedding material moulds quickly
can be a significant source of mould spores for horses housed nearby. A
position for a muck heap is behind stables, just below the back wall
ensuring easy access for dust generated in this area into the stables and
The design, selection and
positioning of new stables or alterations to existing buildings,
require careful planning to avoid unnecessary problems. The money invested
buildings is not always an indication of their effectiveness in terms of
housing the horse.
The well being of horses housed in the most carefully designed stables can
compromised by the use of contaminated feeds and beddings or management
such as deep litter bedding.