Winter Barn Ventilation

Barn ventilation is essential for the health and safety of your horses and the maintenance of your barn. A little effort up front can prevent expensive and disappointing problems later.

Barn ventilation problems tend to be most acute during the winter when doors and windows are kept closed, and the ground is less permeable than during the spring and summer months. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

How do you know if your barn is well-ventilated, and what can you do to fix it?

What could possibly be more interesting than barn ventilation? It ranks right up there with oil changes and trimming those low-hanging tree limbs that catch every time you mow the pastures. It doesn’t increase the useful space in the barn or dramatically increase the value of your property, at least in the short run. Nevertheless, it is an essential factor in maintaining a healthy environment in your barn for the welfare of the horses confined within.

Respiratory ailments associated with lack of air exchange are universally recognized as debilitating, performance-limiting, and sometimes even fatal. Dust, mold, bacteria, and ammonia can irritate, infect, and affect the airways and limit the natural defenses of the respiratory system. In addition to problems associated with breathing in air pollutants, there are a myriad of skin conditions, allergies, and eye issues that can be traced to confinement in poorly ventilated buildings.

Moisture Sources

Your barn-dwelling animals are, for purposes of this discussion, giant fountains of moisture. They ooze it from every pore, deposit it on the stall floor, dribble it from the water bucket, and add to it every time they exhale. This moisture contains more than water. It is alive with microorganisms both beneficial and harmful and a cocktail of chemicals, such as ammonia, that add to the barn’s community and

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Written by:

David Preston, president of Preston Construction Group, specializes in unique commercial and equine projects. A horse owner and sportsman, he has built and remodeled several barns in Kentucky and Illinois ranging from development of complete Thoroughbred farms to small horse barns.

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