Designing a stable for your horse(s) requires a lot of planning and decision-making. Your goal when building a horse stable should be to provide a safe and comfortable space for your horses.
A horse stable will keep your horses out of extreme weather and provide everything you need to look after them.
If you don’t have much experience in this field, it can be a bit daunting to design a facility for your horses, but luckily help is on the way.
Below, I’m going to tackle the most important aspects of building a horse stable or stall, so you can have a practical overview of the decisions you must take in this regard.
How to Build a Horse Stable (Stall)?
From sizing to materials, building a stable involves a lot of design choices. Keep in mind that the safety and health of your horse should be your priority, so choose materials, flooring and consider size to meet these requirements.
To make things easier on you, here’s a quick rundown of the most important aspects to consider when designing a horse stable:
– Stable Size
I always say that if you can go bigger, then you should go bigger. That is, of course, if your budget allows it, and if your horse is a large breed.
Typically, horses need a stall that’s 12 x 12 feet. That said, larger breeds may need a 14 x 14 feet stall.
Likewise, if you want a foaling stall, you’ll also need to think bigger and design a stall in which a mare and foal will feel comfortable.
Your horse needs to be able to move and lie down comfortably without touching the walls of the stall.
Besides the stall, you should also consider making the aisles wider. This will allow you to safely move your horse within the stable or when saddling your horse.
Experts recommend that aisles be at least 10 feet wide, but you can go bigger if you’re not restricted by your budget.
– Stable Walls
When designing your stable walls, you must account for two things — ventilation and the familiarity of your horses with other horses.
Ideally, for proper ventilation, sidewalls should not be solid all the way through. An upper portion of a grille will go a long way in improving ventilation.
However, this is best done only if your horses are all well-behaved and familiar with each other. And even then, the portion of the wall where the feed box is mounted should be solid full height to prevent horses from bickering over food.
That said, you can design one stall with full-height solid walls, for cases when horses don’t get along or if unexpected situations arise, where full privacy is needed for your horse.
If you’re going with the solid wall and grille combination, you can go with solid walls to a height of 4 feet off the ground, and complete with a grille portion above.
If you’re going with all solid walls, installing overhead fans can help both with ventilation but also with temperature control in hot weather, helping your horses cool down in the summer.
– Stable Doors
In terms of stable door design, you have two options to work with — swinging doors or sliding doors.
If you’re going with swinging doors, these should open onto the aisles. Sliding doors should be built to slide smoothly. You can even split sliding doors in the middle and have them slide into opposite directions.
Regardless of the type of sliding door, make sure the doors latch and close properly and that they cannot be tampered with by your horses. If horses can escape, they risk injury and accidents, and not to mention the looting they’ll potentially do, if they escape.
Also, make sure they’re wide enough so that your horse can comfortably get in and out, without risking injury. I recommend a width of at least 4 feet.
Think about the stall fronts you want as well. I recommend partial solid ones over grille ones. Unless you need to monitor horses for medical reasons or you have extra wide aisles, partial solid fronts are the way to go.
With full grille options, there’s a risk of horses bothering each other, so it’s best to avoid that.
Windows provide horse stables with natural light, but there are a few things to consider:
- Make sure they’re placed high enough so that your horses can’t reach them. A height of at least 5 feet is what you should aim for, but you can make it even higher.
- Make sure windows are made of tempered glass.
- Secure the windows on the horse side with bars.
Alternatively, you can also install sliding shutters which can be opened and closed, depending on weather conditions. This will also improve ventilation and help with temperature control.
– Stable Floor
Flooring is another crucial element in designing and building a horse stable. Stable flooring is important both from a health and safety perspective.
First, it needs to be non-slip. Then it needs to drain well or you should have drains installed. Floors should also be easily cleanable.
Concrete is most commonly used as flooring in stalls. And although it doesn’t drain, drains can be installed. Concrete comes with the advantage of being cleanable, you can hose it down and keep it clean. You can even disinfect it.
But the problem with concrete is that it’s hard on the horse’s legs. This is where stall mats come in, which can be placed over the concrete.
These are made of rubber-like material and they’re even used under the bedding of horses for extra comfort.
Some stables will have sandy soil and no hard flooring. That can work too, although soil can become saturated with urine, so you’ll need to dig out and replace it when that happens. Although inconvenient from this perspective, earth flooring is easier on a horse’s legs.
Regardless of which one you’re choosing, make sure that the stable is kept clean and mud-free for the safety and health of your horses.
– Run-in (Optional)
Run-in sheds are an optional addition to a horse stable, or they can even be used in lieu of a horse stable, when they’re built as a shelter somewhere on a pasture.
While your horses are spending their day on the pasture, a run-in shed serves as a shelter from the elements (rain, sun, snow, etc.) and it’s an affordable way to provide temporary housing for your horses.
You can buy them online or you can design and build your own. These merely serve as a ‘run-in’ for horses, so they can stay protected from heavy rainfall such as one during a storm, for example.
Besides these, I also recommend designing your horse stable with some other amenities in mind such as a wash stable, feed storage and tack room in mind.
Ultimately, the number of horses you have, and their needs will dictate the other facilities or amenities you want to add to your horse stable.
If possible, don’t compromise on the size of stalls in favor of storage rooms or other amenities. Choose to provide your horse more space rather than have bigger storage rooms.
What Materials to Use for a Horse Stable?
Beyond layout questions, size considerations and amenities, the materials used to build the horse stable are also of great importance.
Here too, you have a few options available. You can either go with prefabricated modular stalls or have the stall built from the ground up using lumber.
Modular stalls have the advantage of being ready-made and you can have a stall up and running in no time, while building up a horse stall from zero can allow for greater customization, but it can take longer.
If you’re going with the custom-designed stall, make sure to work with experienced contractors.
As a preface to what’s to come, I recommend you don’t skimp on durable materials. Whether it’s steel, lumber, windows or other just stall mats, try to buy quality materials. You’ll see your choices pay off in the long run.
Here too, when in doubt, talk with experienced equestrians and stable builders and ask their opinion on what you should look for when buying a certain material.
Lumber is the most commonly used material for horse stall building because of its price, availability, but also offers an overall better look for a horse stable.
In terms of lumber options, you also have plenty to choose from.
You can go the softwood route (fir, cedar and Southern pine), which is cheaper, but it doesn’t last as long as hardwoods.
Hardwoods are better lasting, and you have the option of choosing from domestic or exotic hardwood, the latter being more durable but also costlier.
Be careful as some hardwood can be toxic to horses, so choose wisely.
Lastly, there’s also the option of plastic (HDPE) infills, which are made to look like wood, but they’re synthetic materials.
On the one hand, these maintain their finish over time and they’re easy to clean, on the other hand, lumber is more natural.
All things considered, make sure you talk with experienced builders before you embark on this horse stable building journey.
Make decisions based on expert recommendations, and if your budget allows, use high-quality materials that will last in time.
Using adequate insulation is also important, especially if you want your horses to be comfortable and safe during the cold winter months.
Stable vs Barn – What is the Difference?
Although the terms “horse stable” and “horse barn” are often used interchangeably, there are some differences between the two. What are these? Well, it depends on who you ask.
If you ask an American, they will tell you that a barn is called the building where livestock, equipment and feed are kept.
Ask a British person and they’ll tell you a barn is for feed storage, while a stable is what you call a shelter built for horses.
Therefore, in the U.S. a horse barn is built predominantly with lumber and it serves as a shelter for horses.
Whichever terminology you prefer — horse barn or horse stable — there are also differences in American style barns and British style ones.
American style barns are built with multiple individual stalls under one roof that open in a central walkway, while British style or traditional style stables are built with individual stalls that open directly into an open area.
There are pros and cons to each style. For example, a great advantage of the American style ones is that they house all horses, equipment and feed under the same roof and horses can see what’s going on in the barn. It makes it easier to groom, clean and socialize horses.
In British or traditional style stables each stall has individual access, so horses don’t need to go through a central walkway and don’t disturb each other. Individual stalls are also easier to clean.
As for the cons, in American style barns infections can spread quickly and the atmosphere can seem busier, while in a British style stable may provide less protection against bad weather if they open directly into an open space. Plus, it can be a bit more isolating to horses.
Regardless of the features and amenities you decide to have or not have in your horse stable, you should always have the safety and comfort of your horses in mind when designing or building a stable.
Proper ventilation will ensure temperature control, but also help reduce the spread of diseases, for example.
Good drainage will ensure that water doesn’t pool on the floor and the risk of accidents is significantly reduced.
Apart from these, good insulation will ensure that your horses aren’t cold during the winter and they’re comfortable in extreme weather conditions.
With these in mind, ensure that your horses have enough space in their stalls and that doors close properly and securely.
Building a horse stable is an ambitious project that requires expertise and knowledge. Work with experienced builders to help you build the horse stable you’ve envisioned.Horse Facts