Designing Your New Horse Barn For Style and Functionality

Keeping horses safe and comfortable is the No. 1 priority when constructing a new equestrian barn. But you also want a stylish and functional building that is durable and can withstand the demands of housing your equine companions. Dennis Lee, equestrian product line manager at Morton Buildings, offers design recommendations to help ensure the building will meet the needs of the animals and the people who care for them.

Be realistic about future needs — Don’t limit the building dimensions based on how many horses you have now. That number may increase as your family or equestrian activities expand in future years. “For example, build a six-stall barn and finish only two stalls now, and use the remaining space for storage,” Lee recommends. “It will be far more cost-effective to build additional stalls later rather than expand the barn.”

Think about utilities — New barn owners often underestimate their lighting, electrical and water needs. Wash stalls should include two lights to minimize shadows under the horse. Switched outlets for stall fans, weatherproof outlets to run a set of clippers or veterinary equipment, and electric baseboard heat in the feed room are popular features. Don’t forget the exterior lights for ample lighting in the wintertime. Be sure to include a frost-free hydrant in the aisleway to easily access each stall with a watering hose.

Consider your horse management style — Some owners like to leave their animals in the pasture during the daytime; others prefer the convenience of having Dutch doors that give horses access to outdoor paddocks from their stalls. “If you intend to utilize Dutch doors to allow your horses free access from paddocks to their stalls, each stall should access its own individual paddock or run,” he says. “Allowing multiple horses to have access to open stalls is dangerous.”

Planning stalls — A standard four-foot-wide stall door opening provides room for handler and horse to enter and exit the stall safely. The most popular equestrian stall sizes are 12-foot by 12-foot, but a 10-foot option is available for housing smaller horse breeds. Warmbloods, Draft Horses, and broodmares will benefit from 14’ or larger stalls. Exposed corners should be protected by a heavy gauge metal cribbing guard. High-quality, heavy-duty fasteners should be used to secure stall lumber and hardware to prevent the risk of injury from a loosened fastener.

Ensure good ventilation — Windows and doors alone may not provide sufficient ventilation to address ammonia. Stall fans can be effective in moving air down into the stalls and creating airflow through the center of the barn. Ventilated cupolas or ridge caps in conjunction with ventilated overhangs are also recommended.

Plan for floor comfort and safety — Equipping stalls with high quality rubber mats on top of well-compacted stone screenings or an ag-lime base will provide comfort while also helping to prevent slips and falls for people and animals. In other areas of the barn with a concrete surface, use a coarse broom finish instead of a trowel finish, which can be slippery when wet. Aisle way mats or rubber pavers can be added for an increased level of safety and style.

Consider functional aesthetics — Design features such as cupolas and wainscots can add visual appeal to a new barn, while other aesthetics can also provide functional benefits. For example, a Diamond M door with a fixed window for the top half enables you to work in the barn and still be able to keep an eye on what’s going on outside.

“You want to take pride in your new horse barn,” Lee says. “Proper planning and design will help ensure you can enjoy it now and for years to come.”

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