Ask an expert what a stabled horse is often lacking, and you’ll probably hear the words “fresh air.” Ventilation in barns is of utmost importance; a horse’s sensitive respiratory system is susceptible to mold, fungus, the fumes from ammonia in their soiled bedding, and dust floating through the air. Even in summertime, with all the windows flung open, a barn can be a place of still, unmoving air, which exacerbates heat problems as well.
All sorts of fans exist to help out with still stable air, from massive ceiling fans to discount-store box fans. Which fan is right for your stable?
Box fans: Most horse-owners are familiar with the $20 box fan, picked up at Wal-Mart or the like, and fastened with a bungee-cord to the front of a stall. It’s a common sight in every sort of barn. It’s also dangerous — these residential-grade fans aren’t meant to be used in dusty barn conditions. Their motors aren’t sealed, which means they can suck in dust — or hay, or plastic bits of hay twine — and overheat, a serious fire risk.
Box fans with sealed motors, rated for heavy-duty, agricultural use, do exist. If a box fan fits best into your barn environment, go for one of these instead of the temporary fixes you can pick up at your local discount store.
Ceiling fans: some stables outfit their stalls with the same sort of ceiling fans you’d see in a typical living room. Of course, these fans aren’t made to deal with the sort of dirt and dust conditions your horse will be throwing at it, so their lifespan isn’t going to be as long as a fan purpose-made for the barn.
Still, overhead fans have their place in the barn — just as long as they’re made for that kind of work. Overhead fans push air away from the ceiling, which means that not only are they providing a cooling breeze to the horses (and people) below, they’re also reducing moisture above, cutting down on condensation, mold, and mildew around the rafters and suppressing dust. Several companies make ceiling fans specifically for agricultural/harsh environment use, with multi-speed fans that can service one stall or several, or even large spaces like covered arenas. Some companies we like to use include Cool Barns (www.amberwayequine.com/products/stall-fans), Minka-Aire (www.minkagroup.net/minka-aire), Barn Light Electric (www.minkagroup.net/minka-aire), and AirMotion (www.airmotionsciences.com).
Wall-mounted basket fans: Powerful wind-makers, commercial-grade wall-mounted fans can be positioned strategically in your horse’s stall to make sure they’re getting the most air flow, keeping away biting insects while providing a cool breeze all day long. With sealed motors and thermal regulation, these fans aren’t susceptible to overheating and dust-clogged motors like discount-store box fans. While the starting price will be in the $160 range (and going up past $700 for top-of-the-line models), these fans go far beyond regular box fans in terms of safety and durability — to say nothing of serious wind-power!
Circulating air is crucial to your stabled horses’ happiness. Spending a little extra now on a heavy-duty commercial fan will usually pay off in the long run, with equipment that lasts longer and just plain does the job better.