Planning Your Horse Barn
happens between these two moments: (1) you first think to yourself "I
want my own horse barn" and (2) you happily lead your horse into
its new stall for the first time? In a word…lots!!
probably comes as no surprise. And as you make plans for your
horse barn, you may
fear you'll forget some vital detail or you'll make decisions
that turn out to be mistakes. What kind of mistakes? How about…
local building inspector orders you to demolish your beautiful new
barn because you failed to get the necessary permits or you're
allowed to have a horse or a barn on your property. … Your
pastured horse freezes because his run-in shed doesn't adequately
from cold winds. … Your irate neighbor calls to let you know
that Black Beauty, who has managed to break through her stable door,
amok in the corn field. … Your barn starts deteriorating prematurely
because you didn't provide adequate ventilation and condensation
is causing rot to set in. … The same poor ventilation is causing
the barn to overheat and your horse is suffering from excess dust
Planning Up Front
You don't want to make mistakes
like these. They can be very expensive or impossible to fix and
a disservice to your horse.
number of times you say "Oops!" by thoroughly planning
your horse barn project up front.
Consult your local authorities
to find out if you're permitted to have horses on your property
in the first place and if
you can build
or run-in shed on your property. Understand what the restrictions
and codes are and plan accordingly.
It's not only important to
get legal permissions. Canvas your
neighbors. Find out how they'd react to having a barn and horses
on the other
side of their backyard fence. Be considerate of their concerns
about the smells
and flies that could waft their way.
Selecting a Site
When selecting a site or assessing
a location you've already selected because you don't really
have a choice, consider these
- Wind exposure
- Type of soil
- Access to electricity, water and any other necessary
- Vehicle access for both before and after construction
Don't confine yourself to
considering your own property—investigate
any development plans or possible zoning changes that could change
the nature of the whole neighborhood or region. Your county might be planning
to expand a highway nearby. Or perhaps a private developer plans to
the nearby hillside into ever multiplying condominiums. Future plans
like these could impact your plans. Perhaps you intend to have a riding
school in the country. What if the "country" disappears?
Choosing the Type,
Size and Scope of Your Barn
A horse shelter can be a simple run-in shed
for a single horse or an elaborate horse palace designed to house
a stable of thoroughbreds.
Your goal is to end up with a barn or run-in shed that suits your
your budget. Here are some of the questions you should be asking
- What kind of horse are you providing shelter for?
kind of riding do you do?
- Will your horse be pastured or will
it spend most of its time in the barn?
- Are you planning to acquire
more horses in the future?
Your answers to these and other
relevant questions will help you determine
- Whether you need a
3-sided run-in shed or an enclosed barn,
- How many stalls you need,
- The types of utilities
that need to be included,
- How much and what type of space needs
to be included for tack, storing hay, grooming, etc.
the experience of other horse owners. What has worked well for
them? What would they do differently? Visit their stables
and farms. Take pictures.
Finding a Builder
Home builders, whatever their
reputation, are most likely not the best choice for building
a barn or run-in
ones, anyway) don't
eat through wood or fiercely kick at walls, but horses do on
a regular basis. You're much better off finding a builder who specializes
construction that takes into account the horse's well-being
Bring to the barn builder all the information you've
gathered. He or she can work with you to determine what design
and budget. The barn may be custom-designed or a model chosen
from pre-designed options.
Designing Your Barn
are, or ought to be, thought of as akin to ships. They
have a limited amount of space that must be utilized
efficiently, with a place for everything and everything in
A Horse Around the House, by Patricia Jacobson and Marcia
Hayes, Crown Publishers, 1978
well designed barn enhances your horse's well-being and safety
and supports your reasons for being
a horse owner
in the first place. Here are some factors the design needs
to take into account. You and your builder will
think of others as you hone in on a custom design or decide on
model works best for you.
- Ventilation (very important, see below)
- Size and
number of stalls
- Type of stall doors
- Door latches
- Water source
- Aisle width
- Ceiling height
- Type of floor, such as dirt, wood
- Light fixtures
- Storage areas out of the horse's
reach for hay, tack, tools, etc.
- Building materials
The barn or run-in shed should
be oriented to protect against the elements: winds, sunlight,
rain and snow.
Some exterior cladding possibilities are board
and batten, T-111 and metal. On the inside, the stalls
need to withstand
horse kicking the walls or heavily leaning up against
them. Stall kicking boards
should be made from dense wood such as oak that can
withstand these stresses.
On both inside and outside,
the materials need to withstand the horse's attempts to chew
and eat it. The materials
a safety hazard to the horse.
you are considering your options, keep in mind what your future
needs may be. Perhaps
sure to factor future expansion into your design. Perhaps
your current budget limits the amenities you can afford
now—build future possibilities
into your wiring and layout.
A few safety requirements to consider:
- If possible,
keep feed and tack in a separate, locked space.
- Store hay separately
in a dry, well-ventilated place.
- Properly stow away all tools
to avoid injury to your horse.
Ensuring Proper Ventilation
Realtors speak of location-location-location as the key
thing to remember in property purchase, then next to drainage-drainage-drainage,
you'll want to remember ventilation-ventilation-ventilation
as a key factor to incorporate into your barn. … Doors,
windows, ridge and cave vents or cupolas can provide natural
ventilation. Strategically placed fans will enhance natural
ventilation with forced air movement."
Building Horse Barns Big and Small, by Mary F.
Harcourt and Nancy W. Ambrosiano, Breakthrough Publications.
provides a constant supply of fresh air, mitigates odor and promotes
your horse's health. It also helps protect your barn from condensation
that can cause it to deteriorate and can cause your horse to
overheat in warm weather.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture
has a useful fact sheet on Horse Barn Ventilation at Horse Barn Ventilation White Paper.
The fact sheet briefly and clearly explains the physical properties
of ventilation, the effects of poor ventilation on both your
horse and the
barn, and three types of ventilation: Cold Barn, Naturally Ventilated;
Warm Barn, Naturally Ventilated; Warm Barn, Fan Ventilated. Read up
on these facts about ventilation so you can discuss the topic
with your builder!
stabled horse needs a constant supply of fresh air, so
good ventilation is essential. The
open top door and high roof help provide this. What the horse
does not need is a draughty environment. Windows, which help
ventilate and light the stable, are usually positioned on
the same side of the box as the door to prevent draughts.
If they are to provide maximum air and light, they should
not be obscured by the top door, which tends to be the case
with some stabling. Windows must be fitted with protective
grilles. Additional ventilation can be provided by means
of ventilation cowls in the roof, or louvre boards in the
eaves. Additional light may be provided by a window in the
wall opposite the door. If this is also used for ventilation,
it must be above the height of the horse's head to prevent
The Complete Guide to Horse Care, by Judith Draper, Lorenz Books, 1999
Enjoying Your Barn
In all likelihood there will
be something you'll wish you'd done differently. But if you have
carefully researched, planned and collaborated with
the builder, you and
are bound to be happy with your new barn or run-in shed!
The following publications provided
valuable information used in writing this article:
Building Horse Barns Big and
Small, by Mary
F. Harcourt and Nancy W. Ambrosiano, Breakthrough Publications.
Complete Guide to Horse Care, by Judith Draper, Lorenz Books, 1999.
Horse Around the House, by Patricia Jacobson and Marcia Hayes,
Crown Publishers, 1978.
Horse Barn Ventilation, White Paper,
a Fact Sheet of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.