Ventilation is one of the most important considerations when designing a barn that is healthy for your animals. Without superior ventilation, your barn becomes a breeding ground for disease and contamination. Luckily, good ventilation doesn’t require expensive equipment or running energy-guzzling systems. A ventilation system that reduces the risk of disease and benefits the environment is easy to achieve—given the right design knowledge and techniques.
The goal for a healthy stable is upward ventilation. Mechanical systems, like electric exhaust fans, are not only expensive to maintain and run, but can put the safety of your barn at risk. Most obviously, mechanical systems can be a fire hazard. Yet they also pose danger by the way they ventilate: exhaust fans draw air laterally across the barn. The horizontal airflow increases the risk of passing pathogens and unhealthy gases from one stall to the. Upward, vertical ventilation minimizes the amount of damp, stale, contaminated air in the stables, which prevents the risk of spreading disease.
All of my designs create this type of ventilation, which harness natural solar and wind power to effortlessly provide a strong interior current and upward movement of air in the barn. Even on a still summer day, the air current in a Blackburn-designed barn should be strong enough to ventilate the entire interior.
A few factors enable this energy-efficient, healthy ventilation system. First, the large roof surface of barns and arenas capture solar energy, heating the air at the ceiling. Heat generated by the horses also rises, as long as stalls are designed with open ceilings that allow air to freely flow upward. As warm air rises and accumulates at the ceiling, cooler outside air is drawn in near the floor, creating a vertical airflow path. Proper design of vents along the barn roof permit the hot, damp air to escape, making room for cool, dry air to enter through stable openings low in the perimeter walls. Second, the roof surface captures the natural wind flow to maximize the amount of fresh air entering the barn. Wind moving over a large, steeply sloped roof produces high pressure on the windward side of the barn, which is balanced by low pressure within the barn and on the leeward side. This Bernoulli effect pushes hot air out and brings in fresh air. Placement of the barn with regard to the prevailing wind patterns can maximize this effect, increasing the amount of fresh, clean air in the barn.
By combining the power of solar energy with natural wind, a barn designed using these principles can function as a large, air-circulating machine, eliminating the need for air conditioners or heaters. The result is a healthy stable for you and your horses.
Designing for Health & Safety
Designing a barn for health and safety is somewhat of a catch-22. After all, the best environment for a horse is outside; not confined in a barn. But since a horse, when given the chance, will find a way to injure itself, design with a keen eye for health and safety guarantees you won’t make it easy for them.
While there are several ways to plan your farm for health and safety, like implementing strategic building placement and maximizing natural light and ventilation within the barns, let’s focus on the details. These vary from stall design to details like types of latches and bucket hooks.
Never use swinging doors, since the wind can force them to open and knock into a horse. It’s often difficult to tell if a hinged door is unlatched, as the door may appear closed even if it is not fully latched. A sliding door allows the door to remain open while the horse is removed from the stall without much effort or fuss, making it safer for both the horse and the handler leading it back to the stall. Also, when looking down an aisle, an open sliding door can easily signal an empty stall.
The pin latch is a simple, low maintenance, and inexpensive system for sliding doors, whereas hinged doors require a slightly more complex mechanism that may malfunction or expose bolts to horses.
The aisle width as well as the materials or finishes are important to consider. Ideally, an aisle is comprised of horse-friendly materials and kept clear of obstructions, sharp objects, and sharp corners. Recess anything that protrudes into the aisle, including hydrants, switches, ladders, fire extinguishers, etc. Similarly, provide several hydrants along the aisle to avoid pulling hoses down the aisle. Muck wagons, tractors, and the like do not belong in the aisle and can injure the horses if carelessly stowed.
Wash/Groom Stall Design
Like in the aisle-way, continue use of horse-friendly materials like interlocking rubber-bricks, and remember to recess any fixtures that may injure a horse when it moves around the stall. Either recess the hose reel or use a hose with an overhead wand, which is less likely to entangle the horse during bathing.
The back corner of the stall should have a recessed area for a shovel and muck bucket. This area can also double as a safe area for the handler in the case of an unruly horse, which may otherwise back its handler into a corner.
A well-designed barn that reflects a careful regard to health and safety requires a lot of consideration. Over the past 25 years, we’ve developed a library of details that prove to be safe, economical, and often, practical. And while no barn is totally hazard-free, minding the details during the design process can provide the safest possible environment for those times your horse simply cannot roam as free as it pleases.