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No More Dry Coughing: Climate in the Horse Stable

As a rider, you will surely spend a lot of time in the horse stable. Have you ever noticed that the buildings are ideally designed in a very special way so that as much light and fresh air as possible flows in? This construction method is intended to improve the stable climate and adapt it to the animals’ natural living conditions. Here you can find out exactly what you should pay attention to when planning a stable or choosing a suitable one for your darling!

Definition of Stable Climate: For a Feel-Good Atmosphere

Let’s take a look at the wild horse: It lives in the steppe and is used to endless expanses. The feed is rather sparsely distributed, which is why it covers several kilometers in the herd during the day. The organism is ideally adapted to the masses of fresh air and sunlight.

The smell of ammonia, which is formed when urine decomposes, and dust, on the other hand, are not known to the lungs of our four-legged friends. Their efficient organs are designed to process as much oxygen as possible – this is the only way to keep the horse’s body really fit and healthy. This means that humans should offer the animals conditions that are as close to nature as possible.

So in order to be able to create the ideal stable climate, you have to pay special attention to a few values. These include, among other things, the temperature, the humidity, and the circulation of the stable air in the interior rooms and boxes of the horse stable. The lighting is also crucial so that the horses feel comfortable. Last but not least, it is no less important that dust and harmful gases can easily form in the barn, which can have a negative impact on health. This should also be prevented as much as possible.

The Temperature in the Stable: Cozy and Warm All Year Round?

Sure, we humans usually love it warm. Whether in summer under the sun or in winter in front of the fireplace – we always create our cozy, cozy corners. Is it so far removed from the thought that our animals might feel that way? No, but unfortunately the assumption is not correct (at least for horses).

Because: As already mentioned, the horse is a steppe animal and is exposed to all possible temperature and weather conditions in the wild. That is why the animals have developed sophisticated thermoregulation. Not only do you adapt to the respective season with the change of coat, but the skin is also constantly working to regulate body temperature.

Therefore: The temperature in the horse stable should always be roughly the same as outside. Otherwise, this can affect the natural thermoregulation because the animal gets used to the constant temperature regardless of the season. If you then want to go for a ride in the great outdoors, illnesses can occur more quickly because the horse is not appropriately equipped. Nevertheless, extreme temperatures can be reduced.

The Humidity: a Good Average

In order for the horse and rider to feel good, the humidity should neither be too low nor too high: between 60% and 80% of the relative humidity as a healthy average.

If the humidity rises higher, a nutrient space is created for various bacteria, parasites, and molds. For example, a worm infection with stronylids can also occur. Their larvae feel comfortable in damp walls and crawl up them. Here they are often licked off by the horses and so get into the body.

The other extreme, however, is the air that is too dry. This promotes the formation of dust. Especially since you probably keep a lot of hay and straw in the stable, this is also dangerous. Because the small particles irritate the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract in humans and animals. In extreme cases, this can lead to a chronic, dry cough.

The Air Circulation: No Thick Air

The air circulation in the horse stable is also decisive for a species-appropriate and pleasant stable climate. The constantly moving air currents are crucial so that harmful gases, dust, germs, and water vapor are evenly discharged and replaced by fresh air. Ideally, one speaks here of the fact that the airflow should blow through the stable at 0.2 meters per second. However, higher speeds can of course be pleasant in summer.

Do not be afraid of drafts, because horses do not perceive them as such. If large amounts of the air come into contact with the body, the animal regulates its temperature itself. This can even be helpful in summer, as it can easily reduce excess heat.

However, this only applies to indirect airflow. This means that it affects the whole house and corresponds to the ambient temperature. Partial ventilation aimed directly at an animal should, however, be avoided. The horse’s body does not react to this with the appropriate thermoregulation.

Lighting in the Barn: Catching the Sun’s Rays

Do you know the saying: Sun is life? This is especially true for the steppe animal horse. Because their bodies are adapted to a natural rhythm of life that takes place around UV radiation. Specifically, this means that sunlight not only influences general behavior and joie de vivre, but also resistance, motivation, and even fertility.

It is therefore important that you capture as much natural sunlight as possible in the barn and/or give the animals the appropriate space to run. For example, a box with a terrace or even a paddock and an open stable can be a wonderful solution. But outside windows also bring a lot of light into the horse stable.

The window area in the stable should be at least 5% of the total wall and ceiling area. If trees or buildings stand in front of the windows and cast their shadows, however, more windows have to be placed. However, especially in the winter months, additional lighting may be necessary so that the horses stand in the light for 8 hours if possible. Here too, make sure that the light is as natural as possible.

Caution! Harmful Gases in the Stable Air

There are several harmful gases that are in the air at all times. These can be processed by the body in small quantities and do not have a negative effect on animals. However, if they exceed a certain percentage, this can have serious consequences for overall health. This is why it is best to constantly monitor the different quantities with special particle meters. We have summarized the most important values for you below.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

Our conventional air contains carbon dioxide at all times. When horses and humans breathe, additional CO2 is released into the air. If all windows are closed and there is hardly any air circulation, the “exhaled air” builds up and the value deteriorates permanently.

As a rule, it is said that the CO2 content in the horse stable should not exceed 1000 ppm. This means that there should not be more than 0.1 l / m3 in the air to ensure a species-appropriate barn climate. If there is no ventilation for a long time, bacteria can form and dust formation is favored.

Ammonia (HN3)

If horses spend time in the stable, it is inevitable that they will also pass feces and urine here. However, when these are broken down by bacteria, the harmful gas ammonia is produced. This is significantly involved in the development of respiratory diseases and diseases of the hoof (e.g. thrush).

In order to avoid such diseases and to create a pleasant stable climate, the ammonia concentration should not exceed 10 ppm or 0.1 l / m3 or, in exceptional cases, only exceed it for a short time. Appropriate ventilation and the maintenance of the boxes and litter help reduce concentration.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S)

The cytotoxin hydrogen sulfide does not normally occur in a well-kept stable. It arises when organic substances start to rot. If it is inhaled through the air, it can impair the absorption of oxygen into the blood. If you detect an increased H2S value (≥0.2 ppm), this indicates that stall hygiene has been neglected.

For a Better Stable Climate: What You Can & Should Do

Now that you know what to look for when building or choosing a horse stable, the question that arises is how you can contribute to a better stable climate. To help you with this, we have put together a small stable climate checklist for you:

  • Permanently open windows or at least daily ventilation guarantee a temperature adjustment and sufficient air movement to remove pollutants;
  • Check the humidity and, if necessary, adjust it to 60 to 80% with a room humidifier or dehumidifier;
  • Plan large window areas (ideally also in the ceiling) to ensure a natural daily rhythm;
  • Muck out the horse stable every day to reduce the formation of pollutants.

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