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Barn/Facility Design Dos and Don'ts

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  • Barn/Facility Design Dos and Don'ts

    I would like to get input from people about things/features designed into their facilities that they love or hate. I'll start:

    Don't Put Paddock Gates Close Together.

    The place I board has two paddocks which have the gates next to each other. Such a simple thing, but it causes incredible hostility in the horses. My mares started giving each other the evil eye and putting their ears back a few months in. This would happen when a person would approach the gate. It escalated into a kicking match one day. I remembered the BO telling me about two mares he had had years before who hated each other and got into a kicking match which resulted in serious injuries and months of vet bills and rehab. I asked him which paddocks those mares had been in and he told me it was the same paddocks where my mares are.

    I moved one horse down a paddock, but it was not as nice and I wanted them to have company. The only time they showed aggression was when someone approached the gate, especially at feeding time. Although I correct them when I am there, training was not an option because the farm hands don't have time, inclination or knowledge to chastise/correct each time they feed.

    The problem was finally fixed when I experimented with feeding each horse in the corner farthest away from the gate. In addition, the dominant horse is fed first, which gets her away from the gate. Each paddock has two built-in feeders along the front fence, about thirty feet apart. My horses get a flake in the feeder and a flake in a big tub, which tends to migrate a little. The solution is simple and obvious to most of you, but the point of the post is that the issue would not have existed had the gates been placed centrally or at opposite ends from each other. I know this because when I moved both horses down one paddock, still in adjacent paddocks but with gates on opposite ends, they never showed any aggression, so I know it was the design, not the horses. What I don't know is how far apart is far enough that they don't feel threatened by each other's approach during feeding times.
    "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina

  • #2
    I've posted in these threads before that the best thing I like about my 3 stall shedrow barn is that we put it in the middle between two paddocks with a front and back door. This way I can rotate pasture by just opening a door to either. Also glad that we put in skylight panels. Brightens the stalls.
    Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"


    • #3
      Don't put gates in corners either

      Deciding whether they should swing in AND out, or just in (to prevent horses from pushing one open) is something to consider too, based on preferences, assuming the land allows the option.
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


      • #4
        Don't put the water troughs close to the gates!!! I was at a place that had this, and what a mucky nasty mess it made. Which, of course, you had to walk through in order to go get your horse...
        COTH's official mini-donk enabler

        "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


        • Original Poster

          Do make spigots reachable from both sides of fence.

          The spigots are outside the fence so I invariably have to go out, around, pass hose over, turn on water, and repeat when I am done washing water tubs. I can't reach through the fence because the wires are too tightly woven, and my hose attachments keep getting removed because they reduce water pressure and slow down the tub refilling when the farm hands are feeding/watering.
          "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


          • #6
            Decide how much time you want to spend on cleaning stalls.
            If possible, have outside runs from each stall.
            You can't believe how much cleaner the stalls stay for most horses.

            Use portable panels and stalls, so you can change as your needs change, without needing to remodel big time.


            • #7
              If the barn is near the pastures, have spotlights on the barn directed to the fields so you can easily feed at night (or see what's going on).

              I love my set up, where most of my fields are separated by a lane. However, I have double gates in the fenceline (not for everyday use) that, when fully opened into the lane, connect the fields. That way, I have tons of options; when all four pastures are connected I have about 18 acres they can roam around. (However, I usually don't have it all opened up into one big field).

              Automatic waterers in the fields. Divided run-ins.
              Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


              • #8
                If you have the room, put lanes between paddocks-- IMO, 12' is ideal, but 6' is workable as long as you won't have to walk horses past occupied paddocks down such a narrow lane. Lanes between paddocks really cut down on fence fighting, meaning fewer injuries and fence repairs.

                For cold-weather climates, the less hose you have to run for filling water tanks, the better. If you're running 150' of hose, it WILL freeze at some point in subzero temps no matter how diligent you are about draining it, and dragging it in to thaw, then back out later to fill tanks will add a considerable amount of time to your day.

                Having a good site for the manure pile is important. You don't want it so far from the barn that you have to shovel a quarter-mile path to get to it in the winter, but it should be far enough away that it's not threatening to eat the barn on a monthly basis.


                • #9
                  OVERHANG!!! And no paddock gates in corners.
                  "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"


                  • Original Poster

                    Do put a catch pen in the pasture.

                    So useful, especially when there are multiple horses.
                    "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


                    • #11
                      maybe you have already picked your location, but look for a spot where nature provides the best possible:
                      - drainage
                      - ventilation

                      if nature doesn't help you with these, if will be a lifelong struggle trying to create them artificially


                      • #12
                        Don't put the gate at the lowest part of the pasture/paddock even if it is closest to the barn. My current barn has this and I hate it.
                        Jacobson's Saddlery, LLC
                        Society of Master Saddlers trained saddle fitter


                        • #13
                          Overhangs! they help prevent water pooling/mud at entries, provide shade and protection. Attached turnouts that open to the fields. Anything for shade areas - trees really help keep a place cool!

                          An enclosed secure barnyard to stop a loose horse from escaping - it amazes me that few places do this - read that insurance thread!

                          Plan for deliveries and trailer turn around access, best for emergency vehicles also.
                          Don't let anyone tell you that your ideas or dreams are foolish. There is a millionaire walking around who invented the pool noodle.


                          • #14
                            Think long and hard about layout so that you can reduce the amount of labor.

                            My horses are out on 24/7 turnout and fed on poles. We have the fields centralized so that it is an easy 15 minute circle to get all the fields fed.

                            We also installed automatic waterers in the fields with hydrants at each field in case we needed to bring a trough in.

                            We use a covered t-post/electric tape system for our interior fences. We did move fence lines more in the early years, but things have settled. Still, I like having the ability to rearrange fence lines if I need to.

                            Keep in mind that it is hard to recruit people for manual labor, so figure you will be doing the labor and make the layout work for you.
                            Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


                            • #15
                              I think the two best things we did on our property were the gravel sacrifice areas/paddocks off of one side of my 6 stall barn. The horses have 24 hr access or we can lock them in if we need to. The gravel stays mud free in our super wet PNW winters which is a godsend.

                              The other thing we did that I love is to put a large sliding door on the middle stall that faces the driveway. I only have 2 horses at home at the moment so I use it as a shavings stall - I can back my truck right in to unload and can access it with the wheelbarrow from the aisle when I'm doing stalls. I also have the option of fencing another large paddock off that side of the barn and can use it as a run-in for multiple horses if I want rather than a stall. With a small barn and somewhat limited space (we're on 5 acres) having this flexibility has been invaluable.


                              • #16
                                RD, I love to see some pictures of the sacrifice area, and what you put down.

                                And IronwoodFarm mentioned something about recruiting manual labor that I'd like to expound on: arrange things so that it necessary, the animals can be taken care of by a non-horse person. Imagine if you get hurt and need a friend to go feed. It's easy to write down that the brown horse with black hair and three white feet gets a scoop of whatever and three "sections" of hay, but not so easy to write down how to put a halter on or be careful at the gate to keep the other horse from absconding. Just a thought . Or you can be like me and carefully hoard horsey friends.
                                COTH's official mini-donk enabler

                                "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


                                • #17
                                  everyone has good suggestions for paddocks, etc.

                                  Sacrifice area ++++

                                  also, simply choosing your location for paddocks, barn, etc with consideration of water table & drainage.

                                  lockable (in terms of horses) feed storage area

                                  sliding doors, not swinging

                                  light bulbs out of horse reach or in cage

                                  separate light banks for inside stalls vs aisle

                                  outside lighting

                                  aisle surface not slippery, easy to sweep & not hard to stand on (suggestions?)

                                  removable feeders/buckets for easy cleaning

                                  frost free hydrant with drainage underneath

                                  light colored roof to avoid baking heat, slope to roof for snow

                                  trees placed windbreaks & shade around barn (& pasture)

                                  most important: VENTILATION. stuffy barns = sick horses

                                  screening to prevent birds & bats from nesting in lofts/open areas

                                  manure pile away from barn/buildings/well

                                  lots of gates to get in and out of pastures with equipment- gates at the end of the pasture close to the barn & at the other end.

                                  area where you could potentially have quarantine when needed

                                  place run in sheds & barn with consideration to wind & sun


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by TheJenners View Post
                                    arrange things so that it necessary, the animals can be taken care of by a non-horse person.
                                    Ideally, a non-horsey person ought to be able to do chores without having to lead a horse, or go into an enclosure with one. Run-in access to stalls. Water buckets/tubs that can be filled from outside. Feeders that can be reached from outside. Rings for haynets, and snaps on nets so they don't have to tie them up safely.
                                    Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


                                    • #19
                                      Think about fire and how the set up is better if one breaks out. How to store supplies / hay that are flammable in relation to the horse barn. Also, lots of plants within 50 feet of buildings adds to the "fuel" load -- so that is another thing to think about. Storing paints and those supplies.

                                      Remember to have a little fun too!

                                      Best wishes and enjoy the planning process!


                                      • #20
                                        How you position a barn in relation to prevailing wind can make a HUGE difference in keeping a barn cool and the bugs down in the summer without using fans or insect control...
                                        "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."