Horse Farm Systems – An Introduction

I am a guy so maybe this is why I love the workings and systems of farms much more than the barn itself.  These are the systems (fire protection, security, water, electricity, etc) I have found on some farms that show how people create solutions and work arounds.

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Horse Barn Structures – Slip Stalls

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.

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Horse Barn Structures – Condo Stalls

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).

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Horse Barn Structures – Damaged Barns

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.

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Horse Barn Structures – An Introduction

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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Specialized Areas – An Introduction

The topics covered here are the unique areas on farms made for a specific purpose (farrier station, vet lab, tack rooms, turn out sheds). The images here are the ones I see the most on farms.

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Horse Farm Décor – An Introduction

Horse barns and farms take on an individual flavor and uniqueness brought on by the décor (decorations) applied. Some are small and some very large. This is a place to enjoy and get ideas from for your farm. Grab your coffee (or wine / beer) and settle in.

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Horse Bedding – An Introduction

Horses are bedded in stalls on different materials and with different styles.

Which type and style of bedding used is dependent on price, availability purpose and the whim of the owner. This sounds like picking a bed for ourselves even though we, and our horses and dogs, have been laying on the ground since the beginning of time. Here are a few ideas I have seen in my travels.

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Horse Bedding – Styles

Everyone seems to have a different way they add, distribute and clean the bedding of the stalls.  I believe there are only a few rules.  The first is to remove all waste material.  In other words if you are going to spend time and energy cleaning the stall then clean it well enough so that you would be willing to lay down in it.  Make sure there is enough bedding to keep the horse away from the ground beneath.  There is one more thing I want to talk about – banking the edges.

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Horse Bedding – Straw

Straw is the collection and baling of the stems of a grain crop left over after the grain has been harvested.  Wheat is the most common straw used for bedding but oats, rye and barley are also used.

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Horse Bedding – Wood

Wood bedding comes in many materials and forms.  The most common woods used are the soft woods representing the coniferous trees (pines) while the least common are the hard woods representing the deciduous trees (maple, walnut, etc).  Formation of the wood bedding includes sawdust, shavings, chips and pellets.  In addition there is shredded bark.

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Horse Bedding – Paper And Cardboard

Paper used for bedding has been around for a while and if you think about it, paper and cardboard are processed wood.  There are several types are shredded newspaper and chopped cardboard.

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Horse Bedding – Unusual Materials

There have been other materials used for bedding horses with some being new ideas and other fairly old.  The ones I have seen are flax, hemp, peat moss and shredded bark.  I don’t have enough experience with any of these to comment here.  The person using the flax bedding said she liked it.  Hemp is not readily available.  Peat moss has not been used in my practice but is not much different than dirt.  Pine needles are used in the southern states but rarely.  When I saw shredded bark used I was not impresses especially when one of the shreds entered and set up an infection inside a new castration site

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Horse Barn Structures – Casting Rails

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.

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Horse Farm Systems – Electrical Utilities

Almost every barn I go to has some electricity wired into the barn.  Ordinances are usually observed and the wiring appears safe.  Most barns today have enough power to run many of the diagnostic equipment vets bring or for the attachment of motors in farrier trucks on with exercise equipment.  And then there are some barns looking for a reason to start a fire.

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Horse Barn Structures – Roof Gutters (Eavestroughs)

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.

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Horse Barn Structures – Exterior Views

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.

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Specialized Areas – Feed Rooms

Feed rooms are specialized areas within the barn used for preparing the food delivered to the horses.  It often doubles as storage for food but here, the article and images are about organization and preparation.

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Horse Farm Systems – Feeding Systems

Systems to feed horses are developed to make life easier on the caretakers, keep the food in one place (efficiency), slow the consumption rate (slow feeders), keep the food from spoiling (weather) or automate the feeding time so horses can have food added at unattended times.

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Horse Farm Systems – Fire Prevention

Fire in a barn is unimaginable yet I have seen a few and the results afterwards.  Fire scares me.  The best thing is to prevent it from happening.  The next best is to have a suppressant system in place.

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Horse Barn Structures – Flooring

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.

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Horse Barn Structures – Footings And Foundations

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.

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Horse Barn Structures – Gates, Doors, And Windows

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.

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Horse Farm Systems – Generators

These noise makers are handy to have when the power goes out.  The most common use is for the water pump but you can also keep a filled pressure tank in your water system for emergencies.  Another good reason for back up power is for electric fans in the summer here in FL.

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Horse Farm Systems – Heating And Cooling

Believe it or not, I have seen and have worked in some barns that are heated.  Some heat with overhead force hot air systems and others with radiant heat conducted through the concrete floor.  Fans and water seem to be the cooling mechanisms of choice.  Some veterinary hospitals have both central heating and cooling.

The gallery has images of these systems in barns I have been to.

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Horse Barn Structures – Interiors And Stall Views

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.

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Horse Barn Structures – Kick Mats

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.

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Specialized Areas – Laundry Rooms

Laundry rooms are often seen in barns where horse hair can be kept from the clothes people wear.  Washing horse blankets requires a heavy duty machine.  Where there are a lot of horses using leg wraps, saddle pads and blankets, having a washer and dryer dedicated to the barn is almost essential.

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Horse Farm Systems – Lighting

The primary purpose of electricity in a barn is to have lights but unfortunately the placement of lights have been left to the discretion of architects and electricians – not horse professionals.  The results give us poor lighting and dangerous if not just plain stupid positioning of the fixtures and switches.

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Specialized Areas – Professional Working Areas

Areas dedicated for use by visiting professionals are found in large barns where their activity can be separated from the day to day activities of grooming or the movement of horses in and out of the barn.  This helps efficiency and work flow.  It also assures the professional a clean and well lit area to work in out of the weather elements.  Power is readily available and ventilation, heat and fly control are common features as well as a clean floor and a work environment free of dangerous obstacles.

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Horse Barn Structures – Protective Trim

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).

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Horse Barn Structures – Retaining Walls

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.

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Horse Barn Structures – Stall Wall Sandwich Boards

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.

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Horse Farm Systems – Security

The advent of inexpensive outdoor cameras and electronic sensors have led to this topic.  The visual recording helps to prevent theft and worker abuse of horses.  They are watching…. Door and barn entrance monitors will identify the Houdini horse in the barn, a stall door accidentally left unlatched or the presence of an unwanted late night visitor.

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Horse Farm Systems – Shades And Wind Barriers

Blocking direct sunlight using shades is important in hot climates.  The direct heat on the horse or barn areas make life uncomfortable and even dangerous.  Wind, on the other hand, is welcomed in the south while it is bone chilling in the north.  Here are some ideas I have seen in my travels.

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Horse Farm Systems – Solar Panels

Solar panels are improving in their ability to generate electricity and usually require a lot of roof space to become useful.  Barn and arena roofs are large enough to generate the electricity needed to power a farm.  In the future, panels will generate more electricity per exposure area shrinking their footprint in addition to becoming incorporated into the roof covering improving aesthetics.

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Horse Barn Structures – Stall Doors And Latches

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.

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Horse Barn Structures – Stall Floor Dividers

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.

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Horse Barn Structures – Stall Walls

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.

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Specialized Areas – Tack Rooms

If you ride your horses you will need a place to keep your saddle, bridle and cleaning supplies.  This room should be organized and kept clean.  This said, I have seen plenty of owners who work out of a trunk or the back of their car.  One thing should be kept in mind – the safety that comes with proper care for the riding equipment.  Cracked leather becomes dangerous when it breaks as you gallop or jump.  Pride is an emotion that comes with knowing that your tack, though old, is the most well cared personal property you own.

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Horse Farm Systems – Insect And Bird Control

Vectors are flying insects like stable flies and mosquitos which not only annoy us and our horses but they also carry and distribute diseases.  Birds soil our barn structures, dive at us when we get too close to the nest they have built in the rafters and also can carry disease (EPM).  I have only included flying things as pest control (ground animals) are usually offered through professional services (bait stations, ant contraceptives) that are not part of farm systems.

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Horse Farm Systems – Ventilation

My large animal veterinary medicine professor told us a story of a visit to a dairy barn in the middle of winter filled with milking cows all with pneumonia.  The farmer was perplexed but my professor knew the answer.  He took a hammer and broke open every closed window.  Ventilation is the best way to keep the lungs healthy was the moral of his story.  I have always believed this.

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Horse Farm Systems – Water Systems

Water either comes from the ground or from the sky.  It is then tapped into and poured into a container for our horses to drink.  While simple in concept, the different systems devised by humans to get this heavy liquid necessary for life to the horse are many.

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