Horizon Structures Series Presents: Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Built My Horse Barn ~ Play Along and Spot The Mistakes

Cassie was late for work. Again. But before she hit the road for her fifty-minute drive to work her two geldings needed feeding, watering, and turning out for the day. She pulled her barn coat on over her white blouse and black skirt, kicked off her heeled shoes, and dug her feet into her broken-zippered barn boots and headed out the back door.

Rain dribbled out the sky as she walked across the wet grass toward the barn. By the time Cassie reached the building to open the heavy sliding door impatient horses could be heard kicking the stall doors inside waiting for their breakfast. She carefully navigated the muddy doorway avoiding the puddles that had developed overnight from the heavy rain, although her feet were already damp from cracks in her boots.

As the door opened two swallows ducked out above her head. Evidently anxious to escape the confines of the building and seek food for the chicks in the nest that could be heard twittering away above her head high up on the rafters.

She quickly walked down the narrow center aisle that was carpeted with pine sawdust and grabbed a few flakes of hay from the piles she had left by each stall door the night before. It was hard to see in the dull light on such a cloudy day and the air was musty. Cassie wrestled with the rusty latch on the stall door to open it. As the door swung open, her oldest horse Champ greeted her for his ritual morning rub on the forehead, while she threw the hay over his head from her other hand. Hay seeds showered the black gelding’s back and a few floated over Cassie’s recently washed blonde hair that she hadn’t had time to blow dry.  She rushed to the neighboring stall and did the same. Her other horse Delfin tried to leave the stable as soon as she opened the door. He was young and restless being stabled all night and anxious to get back to his paddock.

She checked her watch and determined that there was no time to grain the horses this morning if she was to have any hope of making her first meeting. She noticed the water level in the horse’s buckets were low, but she figured refilling them could wait until she bought the horses in that evening. It was a long walk to the spigot by the water trough in the field to fill the buckets and anyway she needed to get the horses out so she could get to work.

Cassie promptly pulled two halters with lead ropes from the blanket rail where they dangled with the ropes snaking over the floor and proceeded to throw a halter on each horse without latching the throat latch on either. Quickly she pulled Champ from the stall. He was stiff and hesitant to leave the stall and had barely had a few mouthfuls of hay, but there was a hay feeder in the field so Cassie figured he could catch up on his hay dining there.

Champ stood patiently as she threw his lead rope over her shoulder and took Delfin from his stall. Unable to contain Delfin’s energy Cassie gave up trying to lead one on either side of her and instead opted for putting both ropes in her right hand and leading the horses out side by side. It was a tight squeeze in the aisleway with two horses abreast but somehow the trio managed to get outside and avoid the old bench and tack boxes that were stationed in the aisle.

The electric wire fenced paddock was sited at the end of a long dirt track. Cassie and the horses navigated the route without incident although the horses jostled next to each other, and Champ pinned his ears at his younger cohort in warning several times along the way.

The gate had been left open and swung back and forth in the light wind. Cassie walked the horses into the field and unclipped the ropes from both halters setting the pair of equines free. Champ walked sedately up to the feeder as Cassie knew he would, while Delfin spun, bucked, and kicked in her direction before galloping off at breakneck speed.

Cassie raced back to shut the gate, and barely beat Delfin to the gap in the fence. Relieved that he had not escaped, she latched the gate and ran past the huge manure heap and back up the winding dirt track to the barn.

There was no time to muck out the stalls, so Cassie shut the barn doors and headed back to the house to grab her car keys and change her footwear. The back of her legs were splattered with mud which she quickly wiped off with a towel.

She was hot and flustered by the time she started her car and headed down the long drive to the road. As she glanced in the rearview mirror, she noted the makeup that she had hastily applied earlier had dissolved and her face looked streaked with lines.

While Cassie drove her old gas guzzling pick up to work, she pondered how she could cut down the time and hassle of taking care of her horses before and after work.

How many mistakes did you spot in how Cassie designed her horse barn that would have made her busy life easier and what errors did she make in handling the horses that should have avoided?

Here’s the scoop!

Better siting of the barn and laying gravel would improve the commute to the structure and compacted stonedust at the entry points of the barn would help defray mud.

Adding gutters to the building would take water away from the doorways.

An entry door made of lighter materials would be easier to open.

Wire-meshed soffits would defray birds from entering to nest. The presence of diseases like West Nile are always a concern with birds nesting above stalls.

Installation of windows in each stall and in the top half of entry doors would improve the light even if electric service was unavailable.

Passive ventilation such as a cupola, gable vents and roof ridge venting would improve air quality.

Installation of Dutch doors to the exterior of each stall would improve the amount of light, air quality and provide the option to give horses the freedom to come and go as they please inside and outside if small paddocks or turnout space is fenced to each stall.

Young horses would be quieter and more content thus easier and safer to handle if their turnout is readily available. Older horses that inevitably suffer from arthritis will do better with the freedom to move around.

For horse caregivers with busy schedules the center aisle barn design with Dutch doors and paddock access offers a horse care option that provides the ultimate flexibility in time and labor management.

The addition of overhangs to the long side of the building serve to keep water away from the stalls and offer the bonus benefit of providing shade from the heat of the sun’s rays during summer and offers and in/out spot where horses can choose to enjoy shade or shelter from poor weather.

A wider aisleway would provide more safety and space for handling horses.

Sliding stall doors would mitigate the risk of horses escaping when opened and alleviate the risk of horses’ hitting into them with their hips and shoulders.

Powder or paint finished high quality hardware on stall doors would not rust and would be easier to use.

Front stall walls fitted with hay and grain gates opened from the aisle would negate having to throw hay and speed up feeding time. Alternatively, hay could be stored in the loft and dropped down into the stalls. The access to a loft should be carefully considered. While a wall ladder may work for the younger and more agile horse caregivers, they also pose a hazard for falling and can be impossible to access if the caregiver sustains an injury such as a broken wrist or arm. A full staircase is a better option.

Automatic waterers would ensure horses always have access to plenty of fresh water and negate the need to carry water buckets to and from the water source.

A frost-free hydrant close to or in the barn aisle would be better than one a distance away.

Erratic or irregular feeding of grain to horses can result in colic.

A small tack room or storage space would facilitate a safe zone aisle without obstacles or encumbrances.

Bridle hangers sited by each stall would be handy for halters and ropes and placed high enough not to present a tripping hazard.

Halters should always be fitted and fastened correctly for safety.

Never throw a lead rope over your shoulder when a horse is attached to it – sudden movement of the horse in the wrong direction could result in the rope becoming wrapped around your neck.

When using a hay feeder in the field, halters should always be removed from horses turned out in the space to ensure they do not become ‘hung up’ on the hay feeder.

Always turn the horse to face you before unclipping the rope and keep you exit to the gate between you and the horse. Administering a treat when removing halter/rope will encourage the horse to stay put and not spin and run off.

Gates to paddocks should always be closed even when the pasture is empty of horses. Swinging gates may damage the post over time and result in crooked posts that leave a large gap between the end of the gate and the post to which it is secured that can pose a safety risk for a trapped head and hooves of the horse resulting in eye and leg injuries.

Closing gates when the pasture is not in use also helps keep tick-spreading deer and other critters out of the paddock.

Electric wire-fenced pastures should always be checked daily when turning horses out to ensure they are operating properly.

Leading two horses at the same time is a risky way to handle horses. It is safer to take one at a time to their turn out space.

A gravel or stonedust surfaced wider pathway to the paddock would be easier to navigate than a dirt path that will mud up during wet weather.

Manure piles should be carefully sited away from the barn and turnout areas where possible to minimize the presence of biting insects, rodents, and snakes around the horses. Manure piles also pose a fire risk.

Here’s some horse barn design tips you may want to consider if you are contemplating a new barn.

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 About Horizon Structures:  One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners.  At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.

All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need –

Horizon Structures also sells chicken coops, equine hay feeders, greenhouses, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures and playsets.

Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook.  Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business.  He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.

For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com

Horizon Structures LLC, Atglen, PA
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Tel: 607 434 4470

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