EQUUS - - Eq Hands On -

Cold win­ter weather may send you rush­ing to close the barn doors and win­dows, but do­ing so can put your horse’s res­pi­ra­tory health in jeop­ardy.

A shut-tight barn may feel warmer, but the lack of air cir­cu­la­tion al­lows am­mo­nia fumes and dust to col­lect, both of which can ir­ri­tate a horse’s lungs. Horses with a his­tory of res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease, like heaves, are par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble and even a sin­gle night in stuffy con­di­tions may trig­ger an episode that takes weeks of care to sub­side.

Re­mem­ber that your horse doesn’t

ex­pe­ri­ence cold as you do. With a thick win­ter coat, he can com­fort­ably tol­er­ate tem­per­a­tures well be­low freez­ing. And heavy win­ter blan­kets can pro­vide the pro­tec­tion lost when hair is re­moved with clip­pers. For your horse’s sake don’t make it warmer inside the barn than it is out­side.

On the other hand, you don’t want the barn to be drafty. Ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of open win­dows, doors and vents to find an ar­range­ment that al­lows air to cir­cu­late with­out blow­ing drafts through your horse’s space. You can use a low-tech method to de­tect drafts: Sim­ply hold a length of toi­let pa­per out at arm’s length. If it blows side­ways, you’ve got a draft to track down and ad­dress.

If at any point you smell am­mo­nia or see par­ti­cles of dust hang­ing in sun­light, look for ways to in­crease ven­ti­la­tion in your barn. This may mean bundling your­self up against the cold, but that’s a small ad­just­ment to make to pro­tect your horse’s res­pi­ra­tory health.

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