How much barn dust is too much?
Horses that spend much of their time in barns are exposed to a lot of airborne dust. This can cause a variety of respiratory problems. A recent Tufts University study suggested that up to 25 to 80 percent of stabled horses have some sort of respiratory disease.
Where does all this dust come from? Mainly shavings, sawdust, manure, hay, animal hair and dander, and silica from dirt in indoor arenas. Much of this dust contains small particles that cause inflammation in the lungs. And horse barn dust affects people, too.
The solution? Avoid dust. But that's usually easier said than done.
If possible, turn your horse out. That's the fastest, easiest way to improve the air your horse breathes.
If your horse must be stabled, be sure there is adequate ventilation. It's tempting to shut the barn up tight when the weather gets cold, but it's not necessary and can be harmful. Strive for excellent ventilation without drafts.
Hay is usually the biggest dust-maker. Here are some tips for reducing hay related dust:
Do not use overhead hay racks. They cause lots of problems, not just dust!
Try not to store hay above the stalls.
Wet all hay that is fed indoors. If possible, feed closer to ground level.
Feed a good quality, low dust alternative forage product like kiln-dried hay cubes.
Bedding is also a source of dust. Keep it to a minimum with these hints:
Avoid straw in favor of paper or shavings.
Use a minimum of quality bedding and muck out daily.
Move your horse outside while you're mucking.
Avoid deep litter.
Rubber matting can reduce the amount of bedding needed.
Other dust suppression tips:
Sprinkle the barn aisle with water when sweeping or raking.
Use a HEPA approved vacuum to clean the barn.
Use an organic dust suppressant to keep dust down in indoor arenas.
If you sweep or use a blower, move your horses outside. Leave them out until the dust settles. And wear a mask!
Avoid and control dust whenever possible. Efficient ventilation, adequate pasture time and a sensible cleaning program will keep dust at acceptable levels.