Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture; Engineering


Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

First Advisor

Morgan Hayes

Second Advisor

Robert Coleman


Equine indoor arenas are a unique infrastructure investment found at equine farms and facilities. They are semi-indoor structures for exercising horses, exhibiting skills during competitive events, and other equine related activities. These spaces do not always include mechanical ventilation or stirring fans and occupancy by horses and humans can be sporadic and inconsistent, which creates a challenging space for understanding and predicting airflow. Typically, indoor arenas have a sand-based footing over which the horse travels. The impact of the hooves can cause dust to become a concern within the facilities. Environmental concerns within these facilities (temperature, respirable dust, moisture, and air movement) have been identified through surveys and small research studies. Three research areas were designed and completed to examine different aspects of indoor arenas. The first research area involved observational studies of the environment within indoor arenas around Lexington, KY. Second, computational fluid dynamic modeling evaluating the impact of different ventilation designs on air movement within indoor arenas. Lastly, an intensive lab study determining the differences environmental conditions and dragging maintenance schedules has on footing moisture content for 3 different footing types.

The environmental studies were conducted in two parts. The first characterized 37 indoor arenas in a one-time site assessment and the second monitored 15 indoor arenas for a week in the winter and summer to examine seasonal differences. During the one-time site assessments spatial variability of roof, ambient air, and footing temperatures, air speeds, and light intensity was evaluated in relation to design features of the arena and facility usage information. The environmental monitoring demonstrated distinct diurnal patterns in the facilities regarding temperature, dew point temperature, and solar radiation. In addition, both studies showed that air speeds within the facilities were below recommended levels of 0.51 m/s (100ft/min). Overall, there is a need for more research on the environmental conditions within indoor arenas, the potential health impacts to the humans and horses in the spaces, and how design changes to the facility could improve this environment.

Computational fluid dynamic (CFD) modeling provided visualization of the effect of different ventilation design aspects and the impact of orientation on air speeds within indoor arenas. Adding eave ventilation and ridge vents in combination with large windows allows for more air movement through the facilities with large openings at the tops of walls providing the highest amount of air movement within the arena. Orientating the arenas with the long side wall perpendicular to the predominant wind direction allowed for the more air flow through and within the facility.

Finally, observing the change in footing moisture content of 3 different footing types (sand with fiber, sand, and sand with organic matter) determined that environmental conditions (winter, summer humid, and summer dry) are important for how quickly the moisture will be evaporated out of the footing. Summer dry conditions (30°C/40% RH) had the largest moisture content change in all 3 footing types, while winter (7°C/75% RH), and summer humid (30°C/80% RH) both demonstrated less water loss. Understanding the rate at which moisture is lost from footing can help facility managers decide when to add more water.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by the United States Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Predoctoral Fellowship (no. 2020-67034-31729) in 2020.