The foundation of healthy workplace design is an understanding of work practices. Volunteers comprise the majority of the workforce in care centers using horses to address human health issues. Documentation is lacking on protections for worker well-being in equestrian microenvironments which are known to have the potential for dust exposures. Climate acts as a master variable in equestrian facility design and ventilation usage to address dust and temperature concerns. Using climate as an independent variable, our objective was to characterize space usage, safety, environmental control, and organizational practices through a national survey of equine assisted programs. We found that more fully enclosed indoor arena spaces were in cold/very cold and mixed-humid climates (p = 0.0114). Annually more volunteers (p = 0.0073) work in these two climate groups averaging 100 volunteers per location. A total of 34% of all facilities, regardless of climate, do not use mechanical ventilation systems (e.g., fans). As volunteer worker time in the arena increased, time in the barn microenvironment tended to decrease (p = 0.0538). We identified facility designs, ventilation usage, and worker arrangements to refine the scalability of future air contaminant monitoring and to provide frameworks for education, workplace design, and prevention of exposure to dust.

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Published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, v. 18, 19, 10385.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This research study was funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health through the Pilot Research Project Training Program of the University of Cincinnati Education and Research Facility Grant #T42OH008432.

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The following are available online at https://www.mdpi.com/article/10.3390/ijerph181910385/s1, Figure S1: Example of a volunteer-horse-unit in a fully enclosed arena (used with permission from Healing Strides of VA, Boone’s Mill, VA, USA). Survey S1: Questionnaire utilized. Tables S1–S4 Detailed questionnaire results

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