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Group Stalls?

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  • Group Stalls?

    We're building our barn as a run-in style. It will have a !0' x 48' overhanging roofline, and currently opening into three 12 x 12 stalls. We're thinking about changing our plans to make the stalls into one 12 x 12 (for times when one horse may need to be isolated ) and the other into a 12 x 24...or possibly one big community stall - 12 x 36. We're also looking into possibly making the dividing walls between the stall into hinged walls that could be used either opened OR closed to give us all options. The stall (s) would still have 3 dutch doors open all the time out to the overhanging roof and dry lot beyond. I've read that a number of equine facilities in Europe are converting to community stalls based on research showing the positive calming effect group housing has on horses. Thoughts from the forum gurus? Pros/cons?

  • #2
    Horses do well in herds but not so well when they can trap each other against fences or corners. Even horses who like each other can get in dangerous kick to the death fights if one can't escape the other.

    House them together but with open ended shelters with nowhere to get stuck.


    • #3
      I'd say if you are going to feed/water/hay them inside, definitely have separate space with dividers for each horse. Even the best of friends can have quibbles over feed, hay and water. Or you might end up with the lowest member of the herd not allowed into the shared shelter at all.

      So, for a 4-sided shelter, with individual doors (instead of one 36 foot wide opening), I would make them into individual stalls.
      ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


      • #4
        Yes, group stalls, run in sheds, paddock trails and 'Hit Aktivstall' are upcoming trends. If you have a hay feeder outside, every horse will find time to eat. Most breeders have their youngsters and/or mares in group stalls. As with a paddock or pasture it depends on how many horses have how much space and how social the horses are. There is a lot of information on the internet about how to avoid traps (e.g. doors) and what to consider.


        • #5
          You didn't specify how many horses you plan to have, and that obviously makes a difference. It also depends on the gender/temperament of those horses. In my experience, geldings share a *lot* better than mares.

          We have a run-in about the size you're talking about -- it's 3-sided 12x24, and has a 10' overhang. During primary turnout time (day or night, depending on season) there may be as many as 6 horses and ponies in that pasture. The other half of the day, there are 2 horses and 2 small ponies that share the space well (all geldings), and they all get fed in there as well.

          We did initially have issues with one horse (mare) standing in the middle and not letting anyone in. We solved that by putting an airy divider of two 2x6s to split the space, and that solved the problem. All 6ish horses can get in the space to get shade/stay dry when necessary, but for nasty weather, we'd bring the indoor horses back in anyway, to give the outdoor horses more room in there. The open 'stalls' are big enough that no one gets trapped, and when there's no food involved the boys all get along fabulously.

          Most of the 'indoor' horses are mares, and they do not share well. We have enough issues with kicking/chasing/general b1tchyness at the gates. They all have their own stalls for feeding and turn-in, and that works best for us. They can share a 20x12 run-in if it's just 2 of them and they are besties, but every single one of the attempted homicides on the property have been the girls, and happened when someone got pinned in a corner.

          So in summary, I don't think I'd 'lock' 3 horses in a large stall the way you're describing. But if it's free access to a paddock so everyone has an escape option, I think your plan could work well.
          A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's does that...


          • #6
            We have three ponies here in a group stall situation, but as others have indicated, it's definitely important to have escape routes. What we have is a roughly 16 x 16 area and an adjoining 12 x 12 area that used to be a regular horse stall. This still can be closed completely to become a stall and the larger area can have the main door shut to create a stall as well.

            What we do here is keep the stall door open and the 12 x 12 has a Dutch door at the side, which opens up into a paddock. The 16 x 16 also opens to a paddock.

            The ponies can move between the areas, or stay in together with it being their choice.

            Even though these ponies enjoy each other's company and do very well together it was imperative to give each pony a way of easily getting away from the others.

            Some days I'll find them all munching hay together (hay is spaced around on hanging Nibble Nets), and other days one or all three will decide to be territorial about the stalls and/or the hay.

            I find that the ponies are quite relaxed about having the option of getting away from each other. No one likes to be trapped and corned.


            • #7
              A friend has a barn that was designed as 3 stalls each 10x12. She took out the dividers between one pair so now has a 10x12 stall and and 20x12 stall with 2 doors. She will leave the bigger stall open all the time as a run-in shed. She only has 2 horses. Due to the set up neither horse can be trapped in the big stall. She does not leave the small stall open as it only has one exit.
              When the vet is due out or the farrier she will lock one horse in the small stall and one in the big stall. She will never lock both horses in the big stall even when she had a mare and gelding that were extremely bonded/married. To great of a risk.
              Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


              • #8
                I'd be reluctant. I have four and they are really 3 + 1 (with noticeable times of 2 + 2) if you watch their interactions. But even in this VERY well set herd hierarchy there is the occasional "squabble." In an open field is it of no serious import. In a highly confined area it might be.

                The idea of removable walls is a very good one. We have 4 four individual 12 x 12 that become 2 12 x 24 if required. Originally we did this to create foaling stalls. But squabbling between a newborn and mama is a pretty rare event! I don't think I'd put three adults in that space as a matter of routine. I might put 3 juveniles in there that have been socialized together if, but only if, I thought the routine levels of aggression and rough play were within fairly narrow bounds.

                It might work; it might not. As with so many things, it depends on the temperaments and herd dynamics of the group you're working with.

                For me, I'd not plan on it as a routine practice..

                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                • #9
                  I don't see a problem with this unless you need to feed grain/supplements separately. I have 4 stalls for 4 horses, they are open during the day and most of the evening. It isn't unusual for me to see 2 horses together in one stall and another standing in the doorway. They have been together for many years so get along. I do need to feed grain/supplements separately because they each have different requirements for feed so they are separated then; hay I don't worry about, they have separate feeders in their stalls and in the pasture but they tend to eat hay in groups of two or separately.

                  You know your horses best and what would work for them. I'd consider a divider that can be swung away against a wall if you want to open up the area into a large shared pen or the divider closed if you need to separate them.


                  • #10
                    I'm reminded of the retirement barn at the Madden's

                    Looks like the doors are probably 8' wide

                    ... and Patrick


                    • #11
                      After spending a lifetime managing horses in herds of all sizes, in pastures and pens of all sizes, we even kept our stallion out with the geldings and he was middle of the pack and minded the boss very well, I now think that all along we were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
                      Even if we had horse pastures miles long, some times horses just could not get away when one wanted to hurt another.

                      Few really have the arrangement and large enough space for horses to get away from each other when they have differences and those happen so easily, even between the best friends.

                      I have seen horses be very ugly to each other, intending to and doing grave harm.
                      Luckily not any of the assaults or fights I saw with our horses did serious harm but one, a broken front leg right below the elbow.
                      Some other pasture accidents we did wonder if those happened when a horse was trying to get away from another chasing him.

                      Yes, horses are horses and they will have their differences and not that often, so we keep taking chances.

                      By now, I am much less apt to take those chances and finding out that mature and older/old horses don't necessarily need to be where they can get to each other, that just having horses around is good enough to be happy.

                      The bossy horse can relax if he can't spend all day managing his herd and the ones below a top horse are happy not to have to watch their back and be second to any resources, water, food and their humans to those horses above them.

                      Much less stress for everyone.

                      One clear advantage of horses in larger groups is that it takes much less fencing to have more horses in one place than more places for less horses per space.
                      Those spaces to move around will be larger the more horses we can run together in one, compared with cutting that space down to smaller spaces.
                      Also horses in herds tend to move around more naturally as the herd shuffles around, even a herd of two.

                      I think those are management decisions every one has to make for their own horses and one size doesn't fit all.
                      When some insist today horses need to live in herds with others or horses are not cared for properly, as some are saying today, well, the response is, "no, not really, it depends on the horses and situation".

                      I would build for flexibility and not get hung on one or another kind of management, but understand that how we arrange our horse spaces may change according to whatever horses we have at any one time.

                      Let's not keep trying to fit square pegs on round holes, as we have done for long time now when it comes to keeping horses happy, ignoring what horses are telling us because we think they have to like living in our idea of what a horse herd environment is supposed to be.


                      • #12
                        I have kept 2 geldings & now 3 in a similar setup for 15yrs w/o a problem.
                        My barn was built with 2 12X12 stalls on one wall & a smaller 12X10 that was added later for my mini.

                        Before the mini arrived 2 geldings would share a stall on occasion.
                        First was my 16H TB & 17H TWH.
                        Then 17+H WB & 13H pony.
                        Now 16H TWH, pony & 34" mini.

                        Before the mini had his own stall (with entrance from paddock set for his height - under 4') he shared first with the pony & then with the horse.
                        Their choice, not mine.
                        Sometimes I find all 3 in a single stall now.

                        I turnout 24/7/365. Free access to stalls from sacrifice paddock, which opens to pastures.
                        They come in & separate by themselves for feeding.
                        Mini goes in with horse & shares hay, but goes into his own stall for grain.
                        Then returns to eat hay with horse.

                        Never had a problem with aggression beyond pinned ears or ugly face.
                        But you know your horses & can decide if this arrangement would work for you.
                        *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                        Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                        Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                        Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                        • #13
                          I have horses managed in a "group stall" set up.. which is really just to say, our horses live outside 24/7, but share a large community "stall" that they really only visit in inclement weather.

                          Couple of things that really have made or broken this set-up over the years was --
                          Big personalities - some horses just could not share the community stall, and would chase out others. They ended up living alone.
                          No food or grain or water in this community stall. This stall is *only* for shelter.

                          Groups work, but they compete - so it's best to keep competition for resources outside where horses have the ability to escape and not get pinned down. I've found a round bale with a Hay Hut is the best thing ever for eliminating competition over hay; they each have their own "cubicle" to eat from, and the Hay Hut cuts down on the shuffling/chasing behavior with insecure leaders.

                          I love the Madden's set up, and it works well because of how enormous it is. That barn is the size of a big indoor, and you could ride a horse in those 'stalls'. That's how much space you need to make that work..

                          AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


                          • #14
                   I and my trainer have never even allowed horses to be turned out in the same paddock. Can't afford to have client 40k horses be injured. You put them where they can't' get away from another horse and you're asking for serious injuries. But to each his own.
                            Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.


                            • #15
                              Since I own a group that this would not work for my answer is going to be that it sounds like an amazing plan if your horses are the type that it would work for.

                              Part of my small herd is a mare that reacts first and thinks later which means she likes to corner and kick with out enough warning for her target to have a clue that something is about to happen.
                              Having a confined space where a whole group could be when she decides someone did something she did not like would probably end up with injuries.

                              If your group all gets along (or deals with their disagreements without sudden violence) then you idea will probably work great.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by beowulf View Post

                                I love the Madden's set up, and it works well because of how enormous it is. That barn is the size of a big indoor, and you could ride a horse in those 'stalls'. That's how much space you need to make that work..
                                Totally agree, especially on that last bit!


                                • #17
                                  My run in is one 12 x 11 stall, one 9 x 11 stall, and one 28 x 11 stall for 2 horses, 1 hinny, 2 mini donks, and 1 llama. Everyone eats outside in nice weather; in bad weather, horses and hinny share the large area, mini donks share the 12 x 11 stall, and llama uses the 11 x 9 stall. All areas can be gated closed, but are left open if they're eating inside. 12 x 11 stall is used for containment stall if one needs to be locked up due to lameness, etc. It has worked out well--there's enough space that no one feels trapped.


                                  • #18
                                    My 14.3 hh APHA mare (AKA The Evil Princess) singlehandedly (...hoofedly?) regularly kept 14 other horses from accessing the 36' run-in shelter at a previous boarding barn. And it had no doors—the entire front side was open to the elements. (ETA: this wasn't a field-board situation, just a day-turnout set-up.)

                                    I can't tell you how many times I showed up in the rain or snow and saw 14 miserable, wet horses clustering around the run-in, and Rosie parked dry and happy inside. I'm sure they were happy all when we relocated!
                                    "Dogs give and give and give. Cats are the gift that keeps on grifting." —Bradley Trevor Greive


                                    • #19
                                      To me, group stalls that are open is just another name for run-in sheds. I think large run-in sheds work in most herd situations. Enclosing 2 or more horses in a single space is what I think of as a "group" stall. For a group stall, I envision indoor arena-sized spaces for a small herd. Trotting or cantering away is a pretty common and appropriate response to getting chastised by a dominant horse. Putting two horses in a space where one cannot clearly communicate "I'm sorry and I'm respecting your space by rapidly exiting" seems like a recipe for escalation. With the size you envision, I think the ability to enclose each horse in their own space if needed makes the most sense.


                                      • #20
                                        Most horses do fine in a big productive pasture with an open sided run-in. If the pasture is big enough the horses have no competition for food and they can play dominance chase games safely.

                                        Once you are into supplementary feeding, a round bale gives everyone access but periodic feeding increases the anxiety and competition.

                                        There may well be older horses or very bonded pairs that can be in a stall sized compartment safely together. But IMHO these horses are the exception.

                                        We do attended group turnout in an arena sized ring but are on hand to keep an eye on the run n buck play. I notice that the older horse I've been riding this past year really wants to avoid fast group activity now and comes to the gate asking to go home of it gets too rambunctious. She wasn't always like that. But she is often happy to get safely back in her stall now. She might feel differently in a dedicated seniors herd though.

                                        She will still run around alone in turnout or free longe, just is wary of other younger horses.