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Lighting for Horse Barns

Barn owners should consider their environment, budget, and availability of electricity when choosing new facility lighting.
Lighting needs might vary based on the needs of the individual barn. | Getty Images

Whether you’re mucking stalls or dressing a horse’s wound, having good-quality lighting is important in a horse barn.

Carissa Wickens, PhD, equine extension specialist at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, recommends using natural light as much as possible, especially for new construction. “It might be too expensive to put a window in every box stall, but having some windows or skylights to increase the natural lighting can be a big help.”

As for the various artificial lighting options, they each have their pros and cons. “What you select may also depend on the type of operation or barn, and what the horses are being used for,” said Wickens. “A show barn or a broodmare barn may have different needs than other barn facilities.”

Lighting choices might also vary based on your location and typical weather, she said. For example, barns in Florida might rely more heavily on an open concept and natural light, while those further north will likely need more artificial light options.

“Even in the indoor arenas, some people utilize more transparent paneling,” said Wickens. “With this there’s no air flow or draft, but it lets in a lot of light. I’ve seen a lot more of this in new barn construction. Sky lights can be helpful, but they can leak and are also more expensive to install. There are pros and cons on these.” She added that skylights are typically more realistic options when building a new barn versus improving an existing one.

The Benefits of LED

If you are building your barn, it pays to explore LED lighting due to its efficiency and significant energy savings, said Wickens. If you are adding to a barn, you could revamp it with LED lighting to reduce the load on existing circuits. Then you can simply expand the circuits into new areas of the barn without having to upgrade the electrical service to handle the additional lighting load. Further, LED light waves do not attract flying insects, which can reduce the amount of flies in the barn.

Poultry producers are ahead of the horse industry on lighting research involving LED. Some of Wickens’ colleagues have explored the behavioral and physiological responses birds have to different types of lighting. “They have changed to LED lighting in their own poultry facilities but didn’t want to recommend it yet to poultry producers until they know how the birds are affected,” she said. “If it affects how they eat, rest, or behave (such as an increase in aggressive behavior toward one another), they need to know. In horses we won’t have the same situation, but if there are differences, we need to know.”

Final Considerations

Horse owners should do their homework to know what they want to put into a barn and what their expectations are in terms of providing electricity—whether for lighting, power sources, electric water heaters, fans for cooling, air conditioning, tack rooms, or feed rooms. These factors will affect the size of the barn’s circuitry. It’s also important to protect electrical fixtures and lights from horses by covering them or keeping them in areas horses cannot access.

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