How to improve ventilation in your equine facility

Better ventilation in your arena and barn means better health for you and your horses. Here are some popular ventilation solutions to consider.

Equine facilities have always presented a unique set of challenges to agricultural ventilation designers. In the riding arena you are dealing with very low animal density possibly combined with human occupants during events. The stable area, typically designed with solid wall box stalls that restrict air movement, deals with high humidity conditions created by wash down areas.

Ventilation solutions for arenas

Sliding panel systems

For riding arenas, natural ventilation systems have increased in popularity over the years. These systems have the advantage of moving large volumes of fresh air throughout the arena with little or no power consumption and, more importantly, without increasing the noise level which can distract or startle the horses. This noise issue is the main reason that sliding panel systems are recommended over sidewall curtains that are commonly used in dairy facilities. The fabric of curtain systems will flap in the wind creating intermittent noises.

Current sliding panel wall systems are a good choice for equine facilities since they allow for continuous ventilation openings on the sidewalls that can be opened and closed as required. These types of systems are made up of rigid panels so they can be operated with little or no noise even in windy conditions. In addition, the panels typically used for riding arena applications are made with either a polycarbonate or clear acrylic panels mounted to the frame which allows for the transmission of a large amount of natural light even when closed in cold weather. Sliding panel wall systems can be operated with a hand crank winch or with an electric drive motor that is activated with a switch.

HVLS ceiling fans

Since these arena buildings are typically not insulated, heat transmission from the roof steel can create issues with interior temperatures in the summer. If any wind is present, the open sidewalls will provide enough air exchange and velocity to keep the interior conditions comfortable. On days with high temperatures, high humidity and still conditions, you can experience higher than desired temperatures inside the facility. One popular product that is effective in dealing with these issues is the High-Volume Low Speed (HVLS) ceiling fans. These fans were originally designed for use in large factory applications, but they have also been used in riding arenas for several years. HVLS fans have a large diameter – up to 24 feet – and move large volumes of air at a high velocity. The fans themselves move very slowly, typically around 60 RPM, making little noise, which is perfect for equine applications. Since these fans can operate in reverse and at a variable speed, many operators run them in cold weather at approximately 20% speed in reverse. This moves the air upward and recirculates the available heat throughout the arena which maximizes the available heat and helps control condensation on the interior surfaces.

Solutions for stables

HVAC systems

The stable area with its high solid wall box stalls that restrict air movement poses its own set of challenges. In many cases the best solution is to use an HVAC style system that promotes air movement and heat and humidity control through ducting and vents in the hallways and stall areas. This may not be the most economical system for this application, but it is effective in creating the proper environment for both people and horses. Recently there have been different ventilation units introduced into this market. Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) units are available in different sizes. They can be used with a ducting system for large areas or individual units can be installed in the sidewall of each stall. These types of units take advantage of the available interior heat and blend it with a portion of fresh air from outside. During cold weather HRVs efficiently use the available heat while exchanging the inside air with incoming fresh air to remove humidity and contaminants. In warmer conditions, the units use 100% of the fresh air intake and interior air exhaust to reduce heat and pollutants. These small units are an economic alternative and allow the operator to concentrate the ventilation where it will do the most good.

As with any new facility, while in the initial design phase, it is imperative that you consider all of the pros and cons when selecting the ventilation system. Making an informed choice will ensure that you create the best possible environment for you, your employees, your visitors and your horses.