Heat exhaustion or heat stroke can affect horses just as it does humans. Run-in sheds offer horses refuge from the intense summer heat. The shelter design impacts its effectiveness. In general, two-sided sheds have more air movement than three-sided sheds, explained Kathleen Crandell, PhD, a nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research. The shed height also influences air circulation. The higher the roof, the more air circulation and cooler the shed will be. Building materials also influence the air flow and cooling benefits.
“Metal heats up faster and radiates heat,” Crandell said. “For a cooler run-in shed, it’s best to make the sides from wood or concrete blocks.”
When using wood, Crandell recommended running the siding planks vertically and spacing them 25mm, or just less than an inch apart. The small gaps improve air flow through the shed while providing adequate shade from the sun.
Concrete blocks have a natural insulating effect, creating and maintain cooler temperatures inside the shelter. However, unless gaps are strategically placed in between the blocks, air flow is stifled. Spaces should be placed in areas where a horse can get into mischief with their feet.
“Concrete blocks can be lined with wood or rubber on the interior of the structure to minimize injury from kicking the walls,” she added.
Choose a roofing material that does not conduct heat. Asphalt or wooden shingles reflect the heat better than metal roofing. Although a metal roof isn’t ideal, insulation underneath the roof can decrease radiant heat.
“This is only practical if the roof is high enough to be inaccessible to the horse chewing and pulling it down,” she said. “Wood planking and plywood act as insulation under a metal roof, or foam board will work as well. But perhaps the most practical is the system where insulating material is faced on both sides with reflective material.”
Windows with shutters that can be opened up in the summer and closed in the winter can be built into a new shed or added to an existing structure. Remember, choose windows that are not made from glass to avoid injuries.
Run-in sheds offer much-needed relief on hot days. Crandell reminded horse owners to make sure horses have access to plenty of fresh water to replenish fluids lost through sweating.