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While infections can affect both foals and mature horses, the disease is particularly prevalent in young athletic horses and one of the highest risk populations is the two-year-old racehorse. This is because their age, relatively undeveloped immune system, and stressful lifestyle of hard training coupled with transport pushes their bodies to their limit.

A respiratory condition can set essential training back by months – especially if there is a secondary bout. What’s more, if one horse becomes infected it can have a costly impact. Since one instance of pneumonia means the whole barn has to receive treatment, the cost of vet’s bills and preventative medicine can quickly mount up.

Give draughts the cold shoulder

We can all agree that the solution to preventing the spread of respiratory conditions is ventilation. However with horses sensitive to draughts, a horse barn ventilation system has to provide each animal with sufficient fresh air, while eliminating draughts.

From my experience, additional blankets are not an option. If a horse remains situated near a draught caused by strong barn fans, or in cold and damp conditions, it will become ill more frequently and be more difficult to treat. Conversely, infected horses moved to dry, draught-free conditions often recover quicker and have a significantly lower infection rate.

Can cattle provide the solution?

A solution for draught-free ventilation has in fact been in circulation for over 20 years. Like racehorses, young calves cannot tolerate infection and are sensitive to draughts. In order to maintain steady growth, good ventilation with minimal draughts is needed to maximise profit and yield as well as limit vet’s bills.

To solve the problem, specially designed ducting has been used in calf housing since the early 90s, but only recently have the benefits been translated into the equestrian and racing sector. Duct socks achieve a healthy level of ventilation but avoid draughts by using flexible, plastic or fabric ducting.

Extending the length of the horse barn, sock systems, such as our HVSS Ventilation Sock System, work by channelling clean air through the space via a set pathway. Fitted above animal height, the plastic or fabric ducting contains small openings which allow air to disperse evenly to deliver a constant, but gentle, supply of fresh air. This provides better air circulation, dilutes foul air and ensures even temperatures – irrespective of outside weather conditions.

With simple installation limiting stable disruption and low running costs, these systems remove the precursors to respiratory infection such as dust, condensation and damp quickly and effectively. The flexible nature of the materials used mean holes can be positioned according to an individual barn’s stall requirements making it a cost-effective stable ventilation solution.

While it goes without saying that horses require different housing to other animals, by using an adapted system originally designed for calves, owners and trainers can prevent illness before it damages training, limits the horse’s ability to compete, or results in high treatment costs.

To find out more about our HVSS Sock System offering download a brochure.

Duncan Burl Managing Director at Hydor Ltd