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Barn Ventilation and Fan Placement: Keep Your Horses Cool

Last updated: April 5, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Summertime means hot weather, and for horse owners, that often means dealing with a sweaty horse. Proper ventilation is key to keeping your horses healthy and comfortable, and fans can help circulate air throughout the barn to create a cooler environment.

The best way to ventilate your horse barn is by making sure it has sufficient natural ventilation with large doors on each end of the barn and stall windows. However, sometimes these aren’t enough, so you’ll need mechanical ventilation with fans strategically placed.

Keeping your horses cool during summer is essential for their health and well-being. In this blog post, I discuss barn ventilation and best practices of fan placement to keep your horses cool. Additionally, I provide tips on how to cool a horse barn properly. Thanks for reading.

Picture of a shedrow barn with good ventilation.

Barn Ventilation: Why it’s essential

There are a few reasons why horse barn ventilation is so important. First of all, horses produce a lot of heat and moisture. This can create an uncomfortable environment for the horses and increase the risk of respiratory problems.

Mold and mildew can cause respiratory problems in your horses, such as heaves. An increase of moisture in the air due to poor ventilation could also lead to an inflammation of the horse’s windpipe, making breathing difficult for them.

Poor ventilation can also lead to mold and mildew growth, harming the horses and their human caregivers. In order to keep your horses healthy and comfortable, it’s essential to provide good ventilation in your barn.

During the summer, the temperature inside a horse barn can easily exceed 100 degrees. Horses are very susceptible to heat stress and can quickly become ill or even die if they get overheated. Good ventilation is key in preventing this from happening, as it allows hot air to escape and be replaced by cooler air.

Warm moist barn environments attract insects like flies and mosquitos that carry disease. Also, sufficient airflow will keep flying insects from lighting on your horses’ bodies where they bite, causing discomfort and irritation. This is especially important during the summer months when there are more bugs around than at other times throughout the year.

How Do I Know If My Horse Barn Needs More Ventilation?

There are a few ways to tell if your horse barn needs more ventilation. One sign is if you notice that the horses are sweating more than usual. Another indication is if you see water droplets on the walls or ceiling of the barn.

And finally, you can also check for bad smells inside the barn, as this is often a sign that your barn isn’t getting enough fresh airflow. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to add more ventilation to your horse barn.

Adding supply or exhaust fans is the easiest way to improve barn ventilation. These devices will circulate fresh air throughout the entire building, and they’re also great for moving it to where there may not be enough naturally occurring breezes.

A combination of both natural and mechanical ventilation systems typically works best. Natural ventilation can be achieved by having large doors and windows that allow air to move through the building, while mechanical ventilation uses fans to circulate air around the barn.

Using both methods, you can create a comfortable environment for your horses while reducing the risk of disease and keeping pesky insects at bay.

Picture of a barn with good ventilation.

Barn Ventilation Tips

If you are thinking about adding or renovating a horse barn, it is essential to keep ventilation in mind. Make sure to consult with a person familiar with horse barns to help you choose the right type of ventilation system for your horse’s needs.

There are a few key things you need to keep in mind when it comes to horse barn ventilation:

-The size and style of your barn.

-Consider the climate in your area when choosing a barn design. If you live somewhere hot and humid, in South Louisiana, for example, it’s imperative to have plenty of ventilation. However, barns in cold environments may need to be closed for warmth.

-Make sure there is enough airflow through the barn. This can be done by having doors on either end of the barn, using stall windows, or building a shedrow-style barn.

– If your barn is enclosed, the placement of the vents is important, as you want to make sure that air is distributed evenly throughout the barn and hot air can escape.

-Make sure that the fans and vents are clean and free of debris so that they can operate efficiently.

-Horse stalls should be well-ventilated but not drafty – there should be a balance between good airflow and adequate warmth.

-Large doors on both ends of the barn are essential, as well as small windows on each side, preferably above head height, so as not to catch any dust from outside sources.

Picture of a fan hooked to a stall.

Types of barn ventilation?

There are two primary types of barn ventilation: natural and mechanical. Natural ventilation is the most basic type – it relies on wind to move air in and out of the barn. Mechanical ventilation uses fans to push or pull air through the building.

The best type of horse barn ventilation depends on several factors, including the size and shape of the barn, the climate, and how much money you’re willing to spend. In general, however, mechanical ventilation is usually more effective than natural or passive ventilation.

It can be expensive to install, but it pays off in increased comfort for horses and humans. Natural ventilation can be very effective in hot climates but may not be practical in cold weather because the frigid air blows right through the barn.

Passive ventilation is a good option for small barns or warm climates where you don’t need to keep the horses very warm in winter. We keep our horses in a shedrow barn; it’s wide-open year-round.

Natural Barn Ventilation

Natural ventilation is the most efficient way to cool a horse barn or any other type of structure, for that matter. For this reason, consider installing vents in your roof and walls when building or remodeling your facility.

Natural ventilation will also help keep down moisture levels inside the barn during hot weather because moist air can be replaced with dryer outside air more efficiently than through artificial means such as dehumidifiers.

To maximize airflow from natural sources, you should use large openings on opposite sides of the building so there’s always some air flowing through the barn: the larger these openings, the better.

And even though we live in Louisiana, it still gets cold for a couple of months each year. We blanket our horses during these cold spells, and they handle the low temperatures fine.

Best design features for natural ventilation of a horse barn.

When designing a horse barn, it is crucial to consider the best way to provide natural ventilation. We all know how important it is to have good respiratory health when caring for our horses.

A window, which opens for each stall and eave vents, will help provide fresh air exchange in the barns, while no ceiling (or at least a high one) can enhance this process even more by allowing hot air to rise and move out.

Storing hay over the top of a stall is bad news since that would hinder airflow and increase allergens. Also, ensure you use either mesh or half doors on your stalls so air is not trapped.

When it comes to placing windows, I would suggest putting them in each stall and about five feet from the stall floor so horses can see out, and this height will also provide good air circulation.

Mechanical ventilation systems for horse barns.

If your barn doesn’t get adequate airflow naturally, installing a mechanical ventilation system is essential. There are many benefits to using a mechanical ventilation system in your horse barn. Some of the most important benefits include the following:

• improved air quality – a mechanical ventilation system helps circulate fresh air throughout the barn, which helps to reduce the amount of dust and other pollutants in the air. This is especially important for horses with respiratory problems.

• reduced moisture levels – high humidity can be dangerous for horses, as it can lead to respiratory problems and skin infections. A mechanical ventilation system can help reduce moisture levels in the barn, making it safer for your horses.

• increased comfort – a mechanical ventilation system helps keep the temperature and humidity level in the barn consistent.

Picture of a horse in a stall with a barn fan blowing.

Types of Mechanical ventilation systems for horse barns.

There are three types of mechanical ventilation systems for horse barns. The first is an exhaust fan, which removes air from the barn. The second is a supply fan, which brings fresh air into the barn. The third type of system is a combination of both fans.

No matter what type of mechanical ventilation system you choose, it’s important to ensure that the fans are sized correctly for your barn. They won’t be effective if they’re too small; if they’re too big, they’ll waste energy and money.

In most cases, it’s best to have a professional install your mechanical ventilation system. That way, you can ensure that it’s done correctly and meets all of your needs.

-Exhaust fans: Exhaust fans help remove the hot, moist air from the barn by drawing in outside air and expelling it through the roof or walls of the barn. Gable and Attic fans are exhaust fans.

-Supply fans: Supply fans are mounted in stall windows or near doors to bring in fresh air from outside. They work well with exhaust fans because they help eliminate stale, hot air while supplying cool outside air into your horse’s living space.

The best way to provide adequate ventilation in your stalls is by using fans placed where they can blow across your horse without creating too much noise or disturbance. I typically put the fans overhead and point them to the center of the stall.

It’s also worth noting that if you have an exhaust fan installed, they tend not only to circulate fresh air throughout but also helps keep down condensation. This means fewer bacteria and insects.

Problems That Can Occur When There is Not Enough Airflow in a Horse Barn.

Horse barns must have proper airflow to keep the horses healthy and comfortable. Without adequate airflow, barns can become hot, have high humidity, and have a high amount of airborne dust particles.

One of the most common problems that can occur when there is not enough airflow in a horse barn is respiratory problems. This causes coughing fits, watery eyes, and runny noses for humans and animals alike.

If horses are subjected to poor-quality air, they can develop heaves, pneumonia, or other respiratory infections. These horses will often have a difficult time breathing.

Another problem that can occur when there is not enough airflow in a horse barn is high humidity and ammonia fumes. Ammonia is produced from urine and when manure decomposes.

It can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Exposure to high levels of ammonia is especially dangerous for foals. Inhaling ammonia can damage the developing immune system of these young horses.

Horses can overheat and suffer permanent damage. One of the primary ways a horse cools is through convection. This is the process of losing heat when cool air or water passes over their bodies. Horses can adapt to their environment, but high temperatures and inadequate airflow are dangerous combinations.

Improper ventilation creates moisture, a breeding ground for insects and unwanted pests. These unwanted guests not only aggravate animals but also transmit disease.


In addition to proper barn ventilation, fans can be a great way to keep your horses cool during summer. Fans can help circulate air throughout the barn, creating a cooler environment and helping keep your horses comfortable.

When choosing a fan for your barn, it’s essential to consider the size of the area and where you intend to place it. I hope that these simple steps can help ensure that your barn has proper ventilation and fan placement so it will always be comfortable no matter what season it may be.

Below is one of our YouTube videos about horse barns.

YouTube video


How do you circulate air in a pole barn?

The best way to circulate air in a pole barn is to have natural ventilation, windows, and barn doors. You should also use stall and aisle fans to circulate fresh air to improve the air quality of your horse barn.

Do you need a ridge vent in a horse barn?

Most horse barns need a ridge vent to prevent humidity and condensation from accumulating inside the barn. However, a ridge vent isn’t necessary if you have a shedrow barn with a high roof.