Variability in particulate concentrations in a horse training barn over time



Reasons for performing study

Exposure of horses to airborne particulates during stable confinement has been linked with airway inflammation in these animals. Understanding that link requires accurate measures of exposures and greater understanding of the sources of variability in these exposures.


Area and breathing zone particulate concentrations were measured over time in order to determine the relative variability introduced by daily, monthly or between horse variations. Additionally, the relationship between area and breathing zone respirable particulate concentrations was examined.


The study was conducted in a Thoroughbred training stable. Breathing zone and area respirable particulate concentrations were measured over a 30-month period. Mixed-model analysis of variance was used to determine effect of month and year at the time of sampling and the daily variance upon area particulate concentrations. The effects of hay feeding method and horse variance on breathing zone measures were included in the model. Real-time concentrations of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 10 μm or smaller (PM10) were measured to determine the effect of barn door position. Significance was set at P<0.05.


Average area particulate concentration varied with month and year of sampling but daily variation was not significant. Maximum area respirable particulate concentrations were significantly affected by daily variation. Opening barn doors resulted in lower PM10 levels. Horses fed from hay nets were exposed to significantly higher concentrations of respirable particulates in their breathing zone than when fed hay on the ground. Horse-to-horse variability was significant. Breathing zone concentrations were significantly greater than area concentrations and the 2 measurements were not correlated.


While area respirable particulate concentrations reflected seasonal changes, these measures are poor predictors of individual horse exposure. Instead, methods of feeding and individual horse behaviour are important determinants of exposure.

Potential relevance

Studies investigating the effect of natural exposures on lung health in horses should consider the effects of individual behaviour and management practices on breathing zone exposure.