spends approximately 22 hours per day in its stable. Stable design and
management can have direct effects on the health of horses. Perhaps the most
widely appreciated diseases in this context are those affecting the horse's
respiratory well-being. However, the horse is more than just a set of lungs.
The risks of other diseases and indeed direct physical trauma can be increased
by poorly designed stables. The incidence of many of the so-called stable vices
of horses can be increased by stable design. Stables themselves aside, problems
may also arise from the design and positioning of ancillary buildings, such as
feed- storage areas. Surfaces in stables, passageways and walks around stables
can also increase the risk of disease and injury.
There are four basic types of
stables. These are:-
iv) Combination of ii) and iii)
POSITIONING OF STABLES:
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 drains, yet
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 full advantage of
morning sun to all boxes. Avoid steep slopes, especially around corners as
horses 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 can be very useful. Their safety and
reliability have improved considerably and half-open 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.)
WARMTH AND VENTILATION:
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 unheated building with low
air movement, the only horses likely to experience cold stress are new born
foals or young stock whose metabolic rates are low because of disease or
malnutrition. These animals can undoubtedly be stressed by cold and an extra
source of heat, such as a radiant heat lamp may be necessary. In climates such
as a Canadian winter, supplemental heating is often used to prevent freezing of
water pipes etc. While general hypothermia is unlikely to be a problem for well
fed stabled horses wearing rugs, local hypothermia, or regional chilling,
especially of limbs in extremely cold environments can be of concern in
relation to comfort and the healing of injuries.
- heat loss to or gained from the fluid moving over the body of the individual
- 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 and an
object in direct contact such as floors and bedding
- energy transfer between two objects accomplished by the exchange of
- proportional to 4th power of temperature difference between the two surfaces
(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 avoided. 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
2) Aspiration - wind blowing across the top of a stable will help to draw stale
3) Perflation - wind blowing from side to side and end to end of a building
will aid ventilation.
Properly placed and adequately
sized vents and roof ducting are essential to make full use of these forces.
Guidelines for the requirements for natural ventilation are presented in Table
2 below. However, in designing new stables or improving existing buildings,
calculations for individual structures should be carried out. Allowances for
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 (heaven forbid) situation
when doors are closed. A permanent vent can be placed above the front door.
Most boxes should have a back wall vent as well to ensure proper air mixing and
movement. For a monopitched roof, this should be high in the back wall. Boxes
with a peaked roof should have a capped chimney or covered ridge to act as an
outlet for warm, stale air. Draughts can be cut down by baffling vents or
covering them with plastic mesh such as Netlon. This will also prevent the
entry of rain or snow into boxes. It is critical to ensure thorough movement of
air in a stable, especially barns.
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
Building heat loss (W/C)
Temperature gradient (C) at 4 ac/h
Required inlet area/horse (m2)
Required outlet area/horse (m2)
INSULATION AND CONDENSATION:
One of the benefits of
insulating stables is high lighted in Table 2. Insulation by maintaining a
slightly greater temperature difference between the inside and outside of the
stable allows smaller openings to be used to provide adequate natural
ventilation 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
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 the pattern-staining which often
occurs in the rooves of stables.
AND BEHAVIOURAL NEEDS:
Dark boxes where horses have
little visual contact with other horses are likely to lead to behavioural
problems. Box-weaving, wind-sucking and other vices often begin out of boredom.
While one extreme approach, advocated by some, involves housing horses in
groups, simple approaches such as providing adequate provisions for light and
anti-weaving bars so that horses can put their heads out over the stable door
can be beneficial.
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
quickly consumed. In these conditions stables horses can develop STEREOTYPIES,
characterised by bouts of frequently repeated, invariant and apparently
purposeless activities. Examples of these include licking, crib biting,
weaving, box walking and pawing. These activities are apparently coping
mechanisms for prolonged periods of frustration. Owners often find these
behaviours "objectionable and irritating". However, in other species
the prevention of sterotypies by restricting the animals movements has been
shown to significantly increase corticosteroid concentration. Some cases
respond to provision of a more stimulating environment, e.g. putting a goat or
a mirror or a bouncey ball into the stable. Ultimately, the long term aim must
be to identify and provide stimulating environments which help to prevent the
development of sterotypiec behaviour, 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, approximately 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 coat. Daylight 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
fluorescent lighting. It is essential to ensure appropriate levels of light in
the 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 oestrus. However, 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 be effective.
ANCILLARY 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. Fans or 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 relation to forage mite which
damage feeds and can cause skin problems and gut upsets in horses fed
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 or laid 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 and can be a significant source of
mould spores for horses housed nearby. A typical position for a muck heap is
behind stables, just below the back wall vents, thus ensuring easy access for
dust generated in this area into the stables and the horses' lungs.
The design, selection and
positioning of new stables or alterations to existing buildings, require
careful planning to avoid unnecessary problems. The money invested in these
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 be compromised by the use of contaminated feeds and
beddings or management practices such as deep litter bedding.