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Frequently Asked Questions

Barn Building


Q3)  What are some things I should keep in mind when designing a barn?

1. Ventilation - Adequate ventilation is imperative to respiratory health in the horse. Good air circulation decreases moisture and thus decreases pathogens. It helps to remove heat, odor, ammonia and allergens.

  • Eaves, ridge vents and cupolas help provide passive air circulation. These should never be blocked or completely closed off even in very cold weather.

  • Orient your barn to take advantage of prevailing winds.

  • Your barn should have 4-8 complete changes of air per hour.

  • Stalls should have at least 4 square feet of window space that can open.

  • Stall ceilings should be high (at least 12 feet) or have no ceilings.

  • No hay storage above stalls.

  • Open panels in stall dividers and mesh doors or vents at stall bottoms help circulation.

  • Design large doors at aisle ends that can remain open most of the time.

  • Incorporate peak and individual stall fans.

  • If you can smell ammonia, there's already damage to your horses' lungs.

  • Air exchange and air distribution are both important.

2. Safe work areas - Safe working areas for your equine professionals (such as farriers and vets) are often overlooked during barn design and remodeling. Some of the things you need to keep in mind are:

  • Adequate lighting - a good rule of thumb is being able to read a newspaper in all areas of the work space. This is essential for seeing wounds, hooves, tools, instructions for medications and even syringe markings.

  • Adequate electricity - there will be times when your vet will need an x-ray machine or clippers and your farrier will need a buffer or outlet for a drill press or either may need extra lighting. Many barns (especially older ones) do not have adequate electricity supplies causing line voltage drops when high demands such as x-ray machines are put on them. This will cause inadequate films to be taken and may necessitate repeat visits to get the necessary information on the x-ray films. This is inconvenient for both you and the vet and can add to the expense of diagnostic workups.

  • Room to escape! - there should be enough room for both the holder and the farrier or vet to get away from a horse if things somehow get out of hand. There should also be enough room to work on the horse without putting people in compromising positions. A railing people can duck under is a great addition to any work area or wash stall as long as enough room is left to safely work on the horse.

  • Safe footing - footing should provide adequate traction for the horses and humans while being easy to clean up after treatment or shoeing. Roughed up concrete or textured rubber mats are two possible solutions. Remember that hot shoeing and hoof treatments can mar some surfaces.

  • Out of the way - farrier and vet work should not be in high traffic areas. Constant distractions of other horses or people walking by - especially if they can come from more than one direction - sets up situations where people can get hurt. A horse whose mind is elsewhere is often startled when he realizes someone is working on him and can move quickly at an inopportune time.

  • Access to water - it's often needed for many things including cooling down hot shoes or cleaning wounds and equipment. Hoses should be able to be stored out of the way to prevent a tripping hazard.

  • Easy access - the working area should be located with easy access to the professional's truck and equipment.

  • Adequate ventilation - there should be adequate ventilation for all involved.

  • Controls for both water and electric should be recessed or protected in some way so equipment and horses don't get caught. Electric outlets and switches should be protected from water.

  • An experienced holder should be available and is usually preferable to cross ties since cross ties allow a lot of motion and can catch someone by the neck or trap them next to the horse when working on the front end. A good holder can also anticipate movement by the horse and head it off.

Of course the single biggest thing you can do to increase the safety of those working on your horse is to work with your horse regularly to get him used to being handled. It is not your farrier's job to teach your horse to pick up his feet or to stand still. Nor is it your vet's job to halter train your horse so they can examine and treat your horse safely and adequately in an emergency.

3. A functional feed room - The most important goal when setting up a feed room is to make it convenient and functional for humans while restricting equine access. A good rule of thumb is two barriers between all horses and feed supplies.

  • A large counter space for preparing feed buckets is a must. Shelving or cupboard space above the counter makes for handy storage of supplements and medications. A large white board or corkboard for displaying a diagram or list for feed preparation will prevent mistakes and confusion.

  • At least one cupboard should be secure for medications, particularly when children might have access to this area. A small refrigerator will also be useful and handy for medications that need to be kept cold and will be used regularly.

  • Large sealable containers for the grain, preferably plastic with tight fitting lids, will keep grain fresh and keep out rodents. Setting these containers on attached wheeled casters makes for ease of use, and then storage under the counter will keep the room neat and organized.

  • When planning the location of the feed room, consider ease of access when unloading the grain. Do not leave grain stacked around in bags or sacks as this will attract rodents that will not only contaminate the feed, but will also go to work on any leather tack stored in the area. Always store feed in rodent-proof containers.

  • Check and update feeding instructions regularly. If the person regularly responsible for feeding is unable to do it for any reason, make sure the instructions are written clearly and are easily understood. In times of emergency, you might find yourself depending on a non-horse savvy neighbor to help out, so good instructions posted where they can easily be seen will be an important safeguard. In this same vein, make sure medications, supplements, and grain containers are clearly marked and updated regularly. A diagram of the stalls and corresponding numbered buckets might also offer a simple feeding system that will be particularly useful in the event of fill-in helpers.

These are some general plans for a feed room. Each stable is unique and certainly adjustments need to be made to make the feed room safe and functional.

Thanks to Stable Environments Inc. ( for providing these barn design tips. Stable Environments Inc. provides equine facility design and stable management consulting services for horse owners.


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