Barns have a unique design that allows for great storage and enough head room for even the most rambunctious of horses. However, that unique design can also lend itself to a pretty stuffy interior during the hot summer days. High temperatures can affect a horse's health just as badly as a human's, but running central AC through a barn is not cost effective. There are some other things you can try to beat the heat before it beats your horses.
1. Install a split system AC.
Unlike central air conditioners, a split system is ideal for a large, open space like a barn or indoor training arena. The thermostat portion of the unit is mounted on the wall and looks similar to a window AC unit that you would use for a house, but the condenser is much larger and looks like the ones used for central systems. Also, you don't have to run a split system all the time. You can use it on the hottest days when your other cooling solutions simply won't cut it. This way, you can keep your horses out of the sun in a cool barn during a heat wave without consistently paying for the barn cooling bill.
If air conditioning the whole barn on hot days is just not in the budget, talk to a HVAC contractor about creating a cool room somewhere in the barn or training ring. You could have smaller split system to cool a largish room where horses could go to be tacked before a ride or where you could take them for a short term cool-off or after-workout grooming. Cooling one room would be much cheaper than cooling your entire barn.
2. Invest in an industrial ceiling fan.
You may already have some ceiling fans for air circulation in the barn already. However, in a large barn with so much open space, small ceiling fans are not going to do the trick for keeping cool. Your best bet is to install a central fan that has long blades. These are able to move massive amounts of air at once and can really help bring the breeze. With barn doors open on days that are hot, but not scorching, you can get a nice cool barn that has great airflow and provides a shady respite for horses after they've been exercised.
Large fans will also help prevent mold growth from humid air. Humidity in barns can lead to moldy feed, trouble with tack, and increased frigidity in winter. Running such a large fan in your barn will force ventilation and movement, keeping moisture from landing on organic surfaces.
If installing one large industrial fan is not an option, outfit horse stalls with water buckets and smaller box fans, especially for horses who come in sweating from a ride or training session. The movement of air in the stall will help to prevent anhidrosis, a condition that prevents your horse from sweating to control his body temperature. Anhidrosis is very dangerous, so doing everything you can help your horse recover from a workout and keep sweating in the heat is a good thing.
3. Decrease the humidity.
Humidity is always a concern in horse barns. Horses drink copiously and when you've got several animals in a barn who are breathing, sweating and urinating, humidity levels increase exponentially. Humidity makes heat worse and the barn can trap the muggy air, making the heat index much higher indoors. If you already live in a humid climate, it's best to install several dehumidifiers in the barn.
For more information about barn cooling solutions, contact a company like McKinney Heating & Air Conditioning.