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Equine athletes need the right environment in order to learn and perform to the best of their ability. Feeding, social interaction, distractions, and other environmental factors will all have a direct impact on a horse’s health and performance.

The Stable Environment

The effect of environmental factors on your equine athlete’s training are quite significant.

Heat and Humidity

Horses may find it difficult to cope with the environmental impacts of humidity and heat. Cooling off can be difficult when humid weather prevents full evaporation of sweat.

Monitoring your horse’s temperature is a definite requirement. An adult horse’s resting temperature should be between 99.5 and 100.5 degrees F. During exercise, their temperature should be between 103 and 104 degrees F. Never allow your horse’s temperature to reach or exceed 105 degrees F.

Hoof growth is also affected by humidity and temperature. Warmer temperatures in the stable will allow for the natural development of hoof soles, but will also increase the rate of hoof growth overall. A stall that’s always clean and dry will prevent hoof problems and optimize growth of hoof material.

Providing clean, cool, and fresh water at all times will allow horses to regulate their body temperature as needed and prevent overheating.Proper ventilation will allow for the circulation of air in the stable, as well as the continuous cycling of fresh air.

Regular manure management and hay refreshment will eliminate bacteria, help to control humidity, and benefit your horse’s health and well-being.


All animals need natural light to balance sleep and wake cycles, but when a horse returns to the stable, artificial lighting can have a range of detrimental effects.

Some horses will experience stress if the transition between stadium and stable lighting occurs too rapidly. As well, LED blue light can negatively affect the sleep-wake cycle in horses as it does in humans.

The wrong lighting type and quality will also have an effect on hormone levels. Higher levels of blue light will allow for the more natural flow of hormones, while red light will help to calm and de-stress a horse and encourage sleep.

Horse reproduction and hair growth are also affected by the lighting quality and type a horse is exposed to. Prolonged light will trigger mating hormones and keep horses at peak levels.

Horse hair growth speeds up during the shorter days of fall and winter. Owners can maintain their athletes’ short hair by providing more artificial lighting to simulate longer days of slower hair growth.

Feeding and Watering

The type of feed your athlete receives can actually have a direct impact on their ability to cool their bodies in higher temperatures. For example, the digestive process can create additional body heat when a horse consumes an excess of hay during hot and humid weather.

All equine athletes need to consume appropriate types and amounts of high-quality feed for their activity level, but also for the temperature and moisture in the air. Ensure that feed is balanced for your horse’s exercise regimen. In addition to this, the rate of feeding will make a significant impact on their comfort level.

Warmer and more humid temperatures are best paired with more frequent and smaller amounts of feed or slow-feeding hay bags.

However, ensure that you always adhere to a feeding schedule. Equine researchers in Slovenia have found that horses experience significant stress when feedings are delayed. They also found that horses exhibit certain behaviors in response to late feedings, such as kicking stall doors, pawing, and whinnying.

The importance of ensuring your horse always has access to water that is cool, fresh, and clean cannot be understated. Automatic waterers, as well as several deep buckets in shaded locations, will ensure your athlete receives sufficient hydration in and out of the stall.

Exercise and Turnout

Two essentials for equine athletes are exercise and turnout. Proper warmup exercises prior to competition increase oxygen delivery to the tissues and cause more red blood cells to be released. Exercise also allows muscles to access stored energy and increases soft tissue temperatures, which also increases elasticity in ligaments and tendons.

Warmups also allows the muscle cells to more efficiently use energy for more stamina with less lactic acid and heat.

Following competition, cooling down should not be abrupt; rather, it should be eased into with slow but continued walking to dissipate lactic acid that can stiffen muscles and make them painful.

Physical cooling can also be applied in the form of hosing or sponging with water, and then scraping and repeating until the chest feels cool.

Turning out allows the equine athlete to move as they were made to do. When they can move naturally, their muscles and fascia are able to alternate between work and rest, which results in higher recovery efficiency overall.

Equine athletes who are turned out following competitions experience far less stress and better mental and emotional health, even if turnout only lasts for a short while. However, it’s equally important to match your horse’s turnout area with their temperament.

Social Interaction

A horse is a social animal that requires interaction with other individuals to maintain their mental and emotional well-being. In the wild, horses live in groups of up to 21 individuals, interacting through social or allogrooming, vocalization, play, body language, and many other forms of verbal and non-verbal communication.

Support your horse’s need for social interaction by ensuring visual contact with other horses in your care. This can be achieved by installing windows between stalls and stables. Physical contact is also of great importance; turning out all horses for sufficient periods will allow them to interact as they would in the wild.

Horses that are given the opportunity for social interaction exhibit a more even temperament, experience less stress, and have better overall health, which greatly benefits performance.

Noise and Distractions

young woman in sports uniform and helmet training at riding arena in summer day, outdoors.

Horses are a prey species that associate noise with danger. As a result, unexpected loud noise can cause anxiety that interferes with performance. You can get your athlete used to a noise by introducing it gradually from a distance and allowing them to move when the noise sounds.

Gradually move the noise closer and, as your horse moves their feet, control this by getting them to move in a certain way, such as in a small circle.

There are positive and negative distractions to be aware of. Positive distractions like toys and treat puzzles help exercise their mind and increase their focus for training.

Your own stress and emotions will be detected by your horse, whose natural habits include reading the body language of other horses. Only train when you are feeling calm.

Distractions in the form of movement, shadows, and noise can cause your horse to spook. Check your training area for potential distractions and remove them.

When your horse experiences unexpected distraction, acknowledge it and encourage them to turn in and circle in the opposite direction as you speak gently in low tones. Repeat this process until your horse no longer exhibits signs of doubt or anxiety.

Exercisers, hot walkers, mounting aids, safety walls, and other quality products can take your equestrian profession to the next level. Visit Vitafloor to learn how to enhance your horse’s performance with leading equine equipment!

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