I mentioned in my first post that we recently moved our farm to a new location in sunny southern Idaho. Part of my business goal at our new location is to set up a small-scale horse motel and boarding operating, maybe branching into a modest guest ranch. That requires the right kind of horse facilities, such as easy-access stalls and paddocks. At the moment we have five stalls and paddocks, but we own eight horses. This all means we are poised to create some new horse facilities--while balancing the budget. With winter just around the corner, horse shelters are at the top of our “to do” list. Hubby Matt and I have been combing through books, periodicals and the Internet looking for a shelter design that’s chore-efficient, attractive, horse-safe and affordable.
We are thinking of going with some type of run-in shed. A two or three-sided, roofed, run-in shed provides excellent shelter and may be the most natural for a horse. It might also be a little easier on the pocketbook. This kind of shelter allows the horse to regulate his body temperature, get in and out of the driving rain and it has excellent ventilation.
Here are some basic considerations for choosing a shelter design:
Siting. When choosing the location for your shelter look for a high, well-drained area. Don't build in a low or wet area. Check soil types. Gravelly soils are better drained and usually are good locations for buildings and confinement areas. Loamy soils are best used for pastures. Stay as far away as possible from creeks, wetlands, or ditches (especially those with water.) Watch so hills or sloping ground behind or near your structure doesn't drain into it. Be sure to locate the shelter facing away from the prevailing weather patterns so that your horse can get protection when the winds howl. Shelters, barns and areas such as manure storage should be located at least 100’ away from wellheads. If you are on a septic system, know where your drainfield is located and don’t place structures or paddocks over them.
Flooring. Floors in shelter should be dry and level. I like rubber mats on top of 6 inches of packed crushed rock. This soft, even surface is excellent for a horse to stand on, can be swept off for a horse to eat on. plus it is so easy to clean.
Walls. These should be strong, smooth, free of projections, at least eight feet high and extend to the ground so a horse cannot get its legs caught underneath when laying down. Avoid sharp edges or corners, as well as square posts which can scrape. Be aware of metal edges and corners which can easily cause a serious injury to a horse (or human!)
Stall size. A minimum of 10’ x 12’ is recommended for one horse, 10’x10’ for a small horse or pony. For two horses, depending on their temperament and compatibility, 12’ x 16’ might work fine. When housing more than one horse in the same shelter, provide enough space to minimize injuries. Timid or less aggressive horses can easily become trapped by a dominant horse in small, enclosed areas or corners.
Accessibility -- for people and vehicles. Is there a year-around road or drive-way to your barn or shelter? You will need access by folks such as the vet and farrier as well as for hay or other deliveries, or potentially emergency vehicles.
Chore efficiency. Can deliveries be made without moving horses? Can horses be fed without walking through pastures or paddocks? Are aisle ways and paths are wide enough for wheel barrows, tractors or other equipment?
Utilities. Are you planning to bring power or water to your shelter? Investigate the feasibility for each.
Feed storage. In the past we’ve used a large-ish closet or small storage shed for keeping hay and grain dry. Hay needs to be kept dry, out of the sun and weather. Store it off the ground or cement on pallets with 4"-6" space between stacks (for ventilation and rodent habitat reduction.) Store grain in rodent-proof metal containers (such as trash cans with lids) and keep them well-away from the possibility that your horse could get into it. If you are short on space a simple alternative is to store the grain in your home or garage.
Feeding areas. It is most natural for a horse to eat with its head lowered which aids in clearing its respiratory system. Feed on a clean, dirt-free rubber mat, in a manger or a similar feeder.
County, city or local regulations. Be sure to check with zoning and building codes before you start on your project. Community considerations are also important as odors, dust, flies and noise can bother neighbors and in the long run it's easier to avoid complaints.
Additionally, there might be local considerations such as unique weather patterns. For example in our local we can experience high winds and winter snow loads. Be sure to seek design help if that’s an issue.
Anyone have issues or questions on shelters – or suggestions of designs that have worked for them? I’d love to hear your thoughts.