Horse Barn Ventilation Tips

Whether you are building a new equine stable, or have an existing barn, there are things you can do to increase air circulation.
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stable stall barn aisle

Having open fronts on stalls can help air flow in horse barns.

Is the smell of ammonia in your horse barn overpowering? Is there condensation or frost formation during cold months and a stuffy, uncomfortable feeling during the summer? These are signs that your barn has ventilation problems, said Kevin Janni, PhD, an extension engineer for the University of Minnesota.

When building a new barn, planning for adequate ventilation is critical. If you’re working with an existing barn, there are a few things you can do to improve air circulation. 

Heat rises, so having an escape for the heat up higher in the barn is important, said Karen Crandell, PhD, a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research.

“Installing a roof vent, and maybe cupolas, pot vents (outlet chimneys), or ridge roof ventilator allows for upward escape of air,” she said. “Vents in the gables of the barn help as well.”

Openings along the roof drive air in and out of a barn, said Erin Cortus, PhD, an extension engineer at the University of Minnesota. The wind plays a role in creating a pressure change that draws air from inside barn up, through vents and out of the barn.

“Mixing fans can provide some air movement to assist with moving stale air out of the barn,” she said. “Smaller fans with faster speeds tend to work well for cooling and large fans that rotate more slowly are good for getting uniform air conditions.”

It’s more cost effective to plan for ventilation when the barn is first built, but renovations can improve the air flow in a barn. If you’re investing in a renovation, Crandell offered these tips for increasing air circulation a barn: 

  • Replace solid stall fronts with open doors or a grate/bars.
  • Install Dutch doors on stalls with an exterior wall.
  • Add windows, either on the opposite side of the barn, or high enough in the stall so the horse can’t get into trouble allows for cross ventilation.
  • Install individual stall fans or using portable fans can also help with moving air as well as cooling the individual horse and drying the bedding in the stall. 
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