Ceiling fans move otherwise stagnant air through a barn and help manage equine respiratory diseases, such as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO).

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

Heated and air conditioned barns aren't a reality for most horse owners, but simply moving the air inside equine facilities can go a long way toward improving year-round comfort and air quality for both horse and human benefit.

Comfort in every season

During hot weather, getting the air moving is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep horses, riders, and barn employees cool. Air movement across the skin speeds both evaporative and latent cooling, making people feel up to 10°F cooler.

Combined with mist, air movement can be harnessed to quickly decrease a working horse's temperature. Thoroughly researched and utilized heavily at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga., misting fans have become a staple in cooling tents at hot-weather equestrian events worldwide.

Conversely, when winter winds begin to blow and snow starts to fly, some owners jump to bundle their charges into their heaviest blankets and batten down the hatches so horses stay warm in the barn. While a snug stall and warm rug might sound great to us, they're actually contrary to what's healthiest for most horses during the cold months.

Multiple variables including body condition and hair coat can affect individuals differently, but horses with coats appropriate for the seasons are generally most comfortable at temperatures between 20° and 60°F--far cooler than most human handlers. Considering this, put the horses' own body heat to work by using an overhead fan to push warm air back down and recirculate it throughout the space to keep temperatures cozy for equine residents.

Air Movement in Barns

Large-diameter, low-speed overhead fans slowly and gently mix the air throughout a space, creating consistent temperatures from ceiling to floor.

Large-diameter, low-speed overhead fans slowly and gently mix the air throughout a space, creating consistent temperatures from ceiling to floor. Because these fans use their large size--up to 24 feet in diameter--rather than speed to move massive amounts of air, they're an energy-efficient approach to comprehensive air movement.

 

A breath of fresh air

 Equine facilities require both ventilation and circulation of air year-round. Ventilation is the exchange of interior and exterior air, whereas circulation is the mixing of air within a space to prevent stagnant conditions.

A ventilation system ensures that the warm, dusty, humid, and odiferous barn air is continually replaced by fresh outside air. A well-ventilated barn should not have issues with humidity or odors. Ventilation systems can include natural elements, such as operable windows and ridge vents, along with mechanized elements, such as exhaust fans.

Within the barn, air circulation is equally important. Allowing air to become stagnant can lead to issues with ammonia and condensation, as well as stuffy conditions.

Despite what managers might assume, an effective ventilation system is not the same as, or a replacement for, an effective circulation system. Ventilation and circulation systems selected and operating in unison will result in improved comfort equine and reduced energy usage.