We know what stress can do to us, physically and emotionally. Horses react the same way we do to stress. Chronic stress can take its toll on a horse’s mind and body affecting its ability to fight off disease and general health.
Horses are flight animals. That is they run from trouble if possible and will only fight if there’s no choice. It’s very important to create a healthy atmosphere in the barn and particularly the horse’s stall to alleviate stress, especially since in some instances, there’s little choice but to keep a horse in its stall. The horse has no place to run from a scary situation which it would normally do outdoors to survive. The setup of the barn and stall can be designed in such a way to lower stress levels and a horse’s feeling of vulnerability.
Construction of the barn itself should be airy and open. No low ceilings and no lofts over the stalls – these are fire hazards and should be avoided or placed elsewhere. They also add to poor health quality and can cause respiratory problems.
Windows increase light and air in the barn. A skylight in the roof of the barn, industrial ceiling fans, vents along the roof edges, all add to the feeling of being in the open and improve air quality.
Horses are herd animals and find comfort in being able to see their neighbors. If walls are solid, try replacing a few boards with bars so horses can see one another. Steel mesh is a good replacement for solid doors. A part of the door can be made to open so the horse can poke its head outside.
When boarding your horse, look for a place that incorporates at least some of these qualities.
If you are constructing a barn or making changes in your horse’s present living quarters, seek the advice of an architect or someone who understands horses and their needs.