Horses are herd animals, they gain comfort from being within close proximity to other horses.
When designing stables, it is important to respond to the horse’s natural preferences and behaviours. A key feature in the layout of the yard or stable block is enabling a horse to see its companions, this not only allows horses to communicate with each other but also tends to make the horses feel safer and more relaxed.
Where horses are kept in isolation this may lead to boredom which breeds bad habits such as weaving. Something as simple as the layout of your stables can have a huge impact on the physical welfare of your horse leading to improvements in behaviour and performance.
Lighting: A horse will be adversely affected by poor stable lighting. Dark stables can lead to eye problems and impaired visibility which can endanger both horse and rider. Lighting levels should be sufficient to allow the horse to be carefully examined for any physical problems, lighting should also be adequate for tacking up and day to day handling.
A good stable should provide high levels of daylight as well as artificial light. Daylight can be provided via a window, stable door or roof light. Opening windows have the advantage of providing cross ventilation whilst allowing the horse to see outside of the stable box relieving symptoms associated with stress and boredom.
Minimising Dampness: Horses like many animals dislike damp living conditions. A stable which is prone to damp will not only make the horse uncomfortable but can lead to more serious health problems. Infections and respiratory problems are the most common symptoms both of which may prevent the horse from being ridden. Good stable design promotes good stable conditions which ultimately leads to improvements in the horse’s welfare.
Hygiene and Safety: The stable should be constructed with materials that are moisture resistant, easy to clean and can withstand regular washing or steam cleaning. Floors should be well drained to prevent the build-up of dirt. Stable walls, windows and doors should have no protrusions on which the horse could injure itself with any sharp corners or edges rounded off.
Ventilation: Whilst ventilation and air circulation are an important aspect of good stable design, draughts can have a detrimental impact and should be avoided. Horses do not like standing in draughty conditions but may be left with no option if their stable is poorly constructed. Ideal stable conditions will provide a constant level of air movement above horse head height, this has the effect of removing warm air which harbours germs.
Fresh air at low level should be controlled via stable windows which can be closed off to avoid driving rain and strong winds. If your stables are prone to condensation or where there is a strong smell of urine it is likely the result of poor ventilation. These things can all be avoided by correct planning, construction, and management of the stables.