There are about 20 different topics in this subject and each is a specific structural part of the barn (stalls, roof, etc). Barn architects will enjoy this but there is one important topic every horse owner should look at. It is “sandwich boards.”
Look at these images and if your stall walls are built with boards stacked on top of each other plan on going out there soon to sandwich these boards together. I have gone to several horses killed by stall walls that trap the leg of a rolling horse overnight. It is an awful site. Fix this NOW!
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A horse becomes cast when they lie down next to a wall with their legs facing away from that wall then they roll over onto their backs and continue that roll until their legs now face that wall (they roll over). Instead of having room to position their legs to get up or to even roll back, the wall now becomes a blockade (see the video). The horse is unable to rise or to roll back. They are stuck. Horsemen call this casting. Casting rails attached to the walls, like you see in the gallery, give the horse the ability to secure their hooves to the wall and push their body away. They can now get up. They are an inexpensive addition to any stall.
Most horse stalls have no ceilings but there are some barns with lofts above which create them. Here are some examples of ceilings from simple to ornate.
Some farms build individual stalls with their own floor and roof. These are placed anywhere on the farm and are not attached to a turn out, paddock or field. They are found on driveways and outside along the wall of arenas. I call them condos (condominiums).
Weather and elements can damage barns. So can horses. These images will show some of these. Protective trim may help against horses that chew. A better structure will help against snow loads. Plan ahead to prevent repairs.
Rain falls and when it does on any roof, all of it rolls down to the edge and accumulates in a volume equal to the area of the roof. There is that math again. But you can see this and can appreciate it when all of this water is diverted away from the barn. This prevents a mud trough along the outside wall, wet spots inside the barn and even barn damage. All barns should have eve troughs with an associated drain pipe that carries the water away from the structure.
This gallery is to help you with ideas for your architect. Bits and pieces from all of these can be applied to the development of your barn structure. You will see the details in some of the other topics in this chapter.
Most floors of barns are either dirt or a simple concrete slab. Some barns have more elegant floors or built in features to help you and your horse. This gallery has them all.
I am not an engineer or architect but I do know that if the barn is not a pole barn (structure is attached to poles set in the ground) then it is sitting on top of a footing or foundation. This adds complexity and expense and so most horse barns are pole construction.
The variety of these structures on horse farms is large. Here are some images from simple to hand made to ornate. All do the job. Whatever you choose to use remember to keep safety a priority followed by common sense and ease of use.
Grab your coffee or wine / beer and your note pad for this one. I have included so many images in this gallery because there are infinite combinations and designs. Safety first followed by efficiency, practicality and common sense. Money is obviously an object but safety is ubiquitous.
Some horses like to kick when in their stalls. If behavior modification or horse relocation is not an option then adding cushioning to the direct kick to the wall becomes necessary to prevent injury to the horse. Yes they can kick until they are hurt. They can also damage the barn. Kick mats will help both.
Horses often use their teeth to chew on the barn (this is called pica) and protective trim helps to prevent damage. However I have also seen horses destroy this trim leaving very sharp edges exposed to cut the horse. Maintenance is important. So is changing the diet (see nutrition).
When a structure is built into a hill then there needs to be a retaining wall. This prevents the hill that was cut into from moving down into the structure causing damage. An engineer is needed for this. Old barns (horse and dairy) in the northeast where I come from often cut the hill away and made a rock wall as the retaining wall. This wall would then become the foundation for the barn as well as the back wall of the stall.
This gallery has images of details from a variety of barn roof structures. Some are functional and some are aesthetic.
Stall walls made of plank boards stacked on edge inside a channel make a quick set up for stalls. They also provide an easy way to take the wall down to double the size of a stall. A sandwich board ties these boards together preventing them from being pushed apart. Let me explain how a sandwich board can save your horse’s life.
It is rare to find slip stalls, at least in my travels. These are usually temporary standing stalls for ponies and horses that will be used throughout the day. At night they are usually turned out or placed in a full stall.
There are so many varieties but I might be able to categorize stall doors into groups: swinging in, swinging out and sliding. All have advantages and disadvantages. Latches are too numerous but again fall into two camps for me: safe and unsafe. I guess there are two other types: effective and not effective. I have seen all kinds of combinations and many are in this gallery.
Bedding often slips out from the stall under the stall door and into the aisle making a mess. One simple solution is to place a board across the front of the stall to act as a lip. This stall floor divider can be removable if you want clear access for sweeping, cleaning or movement of the horse in and out of the stall (though most horses step over this). Permanent dividers can be placed on the flat floor between the aisle and stall or the stall can be made a few inches lower than the aisle. Both work. Everyone gets used to the difference in height or the need to step over the divider board. More importantly, the barn aisle remains neat throughout the day.
The images in this gallery will demonstrate the variety of designs and materials. There are a few principles to stall walls. They must be durable so that a kicking horse will not punch a hole through it with a kick. This said I have seen plywood and canvas used and have seen the hole made by a kick. Damage can occur to the horse on the other side if in the way. Damage can occur to the kicking leg. Once I saw a horse kick through plywood AND sheet metal leaving a hole through both. Miraculously the horse had no damage. Not even a hair missing.