Horses naturally prefer to be outside. But we keep them in the stable more often for various reasons. When you keep your horse in a stable, it is important to keep a close eye on the stable climate. A poor stable climate can lead to health and welfare issues, of which respiratory problems are one of the biggest concerns. These conditions can be difficult to cure, especially when they have become chronic. Of course it is better to avoid them. The stable climate consists of a number of factors: temperature, humidity, ventilation and light.
Horses feel most comfortable in temperatures between -5 and +25 degrees Celsius. Within this temperature zone, the horse hardly needs to use any energy to maintain its core body temperature. Clipped horses are not taken into account here, as they will be less able to withstand the cold temperatures.
The optimal ambient temperature can differ for each horse. This depends on the breed, the thickness of the coat, whether it wears a rug or is clipped. But the bedding, ventilation and sunlight in the stable also have an influence on this. In general, it can be said that the optimal stable temperature for a horse in work is between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. For young horses in rearing, this temperature may be lower, although horses in work can also withstand colder temperatures.
In short, humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. This is expressed in percentages. In high humidity it is difficult for horses to lose their heat, because the sweat does not evaporate properly. In addition, a high humidity is ideal for bacteria and fungi. These can be harmful if they enter a horse’s respiratory or gastrointestinal tract. If the humidity is too low, horses can get dry mucous membranes and they may develop a cough, causing respiratory problems.
The optimum relative humidity in a stable is between 60 and 80%. You can maintain the humidity level by ventilating well, as this removes water vapor.
Good ventilation is extremely important for your horse’s health. The continuous exchange of air removes water vapor, harmful substances, dust, bacteria and fungi. Ammonia is an example of such a harmful substance. It is released from the horse’s urine. In high concentrations, ammonia can irritate the horse’s airways and cause respiratory problems. Dust and mould spores can also be harmful to the respiratory tract. It is therefore advisable to take your horse out of the stable when you are mucking out and putting new bedding down.
A stable can be ventilated both naturally and mechanically. With natural ventilation, fresh air enters through windows, doors or other openings. The horses warm the air, the warm air then rises and leaves the stable building via the roof ridge. In this way an air flow is created. With mechanical ventilation, the air is blown out of the building with fans. Make sure that there are no drafts during ventilation, this is not good for the health of your horse.
Sufficient (day) light is important for a number of factors: general health, shedding, metabolism and fertility. In addition, the horse can also see its surroundings and stablemates better in the light, although the horse does see better in the dark than us humans. A light stable also helps you to properly check and care for the horses.
In general, it is recommended to have the stables illuminated by natural light as much as possible. You can create this by installing windows or clear plates. A starting point is to allow the light-transmitting surface to be 5 to 10% of the total floor surface. The minimum required light intensity in a stable is 80 lux. This is not much when you consider that daylight (indirect sunlight) is already 10,000 to 20,000 lux.