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Building a barn, have questions.

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  • Building a barn, have questions.

    Hello everyone,
    We are in the planning stages of building an 8 stall monitor style barn. Hay loft above the center, 12' breezeway, 12x12 stalls. We have 6 horses so, 1 stall will be converted to a tack/feed room, and one left open. I'm voting for a wash rack in the empty stall but not winning that one yet, hubby wants to leave it open.

    I have a few questions:

    1. What is your favorite feature in your barn?

    2. If you could change, or add anything to your barn, what would it be?

    3. What type of flooring do you have in your stalls under the mats? What do you like or dislike about it?

    4. What kind of bedding do you use in your stalls, and why?

    Thank you all so much for your time, I'm hoping to get lots of great ideas that I haven't thought of yet.

  • #2
    Favorite feature: Overhangs on each side of barn giving shelter over part of attached runs. Horses can go in or out at will, and snow and rain don't blow into stalls.

    Changes?: I love my barn, wouldn't change a thing.

    Flooring: I have gravel and road base under the mats in my barn. They drain really well, and after six years there's no urine smell. The mats haven't shifted, either.

    Bedding: I use pine shavings. I sprinkle Sweet PDZ every day on the wet spots. I tried pellets this summer, and they are way more absorbent, but also very heavy to remove. I have chronic tendonitis in my arm and it was too heavy to deal with every day..so went back to all shavings.

    Just a note: Make sure you consider drainage when you plan your barn. The best money I spent was raising the site nearly two feet so water drains away from the barn.


    • #3
      I love the overhangs at the ends of my barn. They keep rain, snow and sunlight out of my stalls. My horse go in and out at will, which makes everything easier.

      I wish my barn were closer to my house, as the walk seems long in snow or cold rain. A wash stall would be great. I want the rubber pavers that my friend has in her aisle. The are so nice and nonslip. I wish my stalls were 12x14 instead of 12x12. I want an automatic waterer, and have it on order.

      Overall, I love my barn. Having horses at home is great.


      • #4
        Water access. Electric outlets. Count up what you think you'll need and add on 3 more Warm water in tack room. On those cold nights, it's makes one less thing to deal with. If you are using hoses for your barn and you'll want a place to hang and drain/thaw during the winter, make room in your 'tack room'. I have three horses, only one is ridden and I've filled my 12' x 12' tack room to the gills. My feed bins aren't even in my tack room. If I were you, I would mark out a spot 12' x 12' and organize that space. You may be adding that other empty stall into the tack room footprint.
        I have a poured concrete center aisle with rubber mats. LOVE the nonslip aspect.
        My stalls are tamped down stone dust with wash stall mats. The holes in the mats let the urine drain through and the horses aren't left standing in a puddle of piddle.
        Did I mention electric outlets? Make sure the manure pile isn't going to be lie climbing mt Everest come winter. Far enough away but efficiently close.
        R.I.P. my sweet boy Tristan
        36 years old, but I was hoping you'd live forever


        • Original Poster

          Great ideas, thank you for the replies!
          More, more!

          I am writing these down!


          • #6
            Fenced such that the horses can be turned out and brought in by opening the barn doors and they can just walk into their own stalls. Saves soooooooo much time feeding.

            Water access.


            Wash rack.

            Insulated tack room. Include winter hose storage here.

            Medical cabinet.

            Counter in tack room/space to clean tack

            Ample space for easy blanket storage in winter.


            • Original Poster

              Thank you!


              • #8
                Loading hay into a loft is one of my least favorite activities, and we have a sled that runs up a ladder. Plop the bale on the sled and haul it up - we need a double block and tackle to make it easier but only have a joke of a single. Before we used the FEL and drove the tractor part way in and grabbed the bales off that but it was always a little sketchy leaning out into space too much. We've walled off that entry and can't get the FEL close enough now.

                Have you planned at all on how to load the loft? Will your hay guy do it when he delivers or will you be the one gettnig covered in itchy chaff?

                In my perfect world I'd have an extending conveyor on the back of a truck-like pro roofers have-that of course would be miraculously stored ready for use somewhere on my place so we could just toss the bales on the conveyor and they would ride up to the loft without any grunt power.

                In the real world however . . .

                When I was a kid a lot of the monitor barns or loft barns in general had an extension on the roof peak that stuck out about four to six feet and had the double block hanging from a track. You had hay hooks on the end of tha tackle and hooked the bale, hoisted it up and then lead it back into the barn with the little apparatus riding on the track. It only went into the barn a little bit, after that you had to pull it back and do it again. They make all kinds of electric winches nowadays for the exact same use, for pulling motors and changing BIG batteries out of forklifts and such, hook it up, just press the button and up she goes, lead it away, put it down and get a fresh battery and lead it back etc.. That's expensive and may be overkill for an 8 stall barn though.

                Link to pic here:
                Last edited by ReSomething; Oct. 13, 2012, 08:24 PM. Reason: hope it works
                Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                Incredible Invisible


                • #9
                  Watch out for rubber pavers

                  Rubber pavers in the aisle can be hard to sweep/get clean. We opted for bigger "squares" of mat all joined together and they sweep up great. Can't remember the name of the company but we have two very long aisles and the mats look continous but if you look closely they are interlocked- maybe 3 feet by 3 feet each with the width two across that also interlock.

                  Since your hay will be overhead, can you think about hay drops in each stall or open railing above so you can just drop hay?

                  What are you going to do with your manure?

                  Also, if you can have dutch doors to the outside with paddock access or runs = nice for a small barn. I second the overhang. You may want to think about laying down cow carpet in any sacrifice areas - helpful in spring with weeks and weeks of snow melt and rain (if you are in that type of climate).

                  Lighting? It is nice to have individual lights in the stalls and also aisle lights. Individuals that can be switched on all at the same time or...individually... so that if you have a late night with a sick horse, you don't have to keep the whole barn up.

                  Good truck access for your farrier and outlets outside or in your farrier/vet space with good light!

                  Best of luck!


                  • #10
                    In a perfect world, you do all you can to store hay in a separate building and if in the same building, definitely not above the horses.
                    Just have a place for immediate needs, maybe a bit more if there is some serious weather coming, like blizzards or hurricanes.
                    Storing larger amounts of hay in the main barn is not only an incredible fire hazard, but also dust and mold floating around hazard.

                    -First, consider if you need stalls at all, other than the odd one for a layup, or just an overhang with mats to feed communally for everyday living.

                    -Second, if you need stalls, if at all possible, have stalls with access to runs outside, as many of those as possible.

                    -Third, have an overhang for those runs.
                    That protects the stalls themselves also.

                    I would always build a shell and then add the stalls, portable best.
                    In a few words, don't frame around stalls.
                    That way you can change them around as your needs will change.
                    Or even take them out, if you hit the lottery and build a big barn later and use that space for storage.
                    Just kidding, it really is more cost effective, less taxes, easier to resell if you have an all purpose building with stalls that are not permanent, not a single purpose barn someone later may not need.

                    As for how close to the house, ask your local fire chief to come see your layout and make some suggestions, as their trucks and access to water could be critical if you ever have a fire.
                    Here, our fire chief wants at least 100' from house to barns or wells.
                    My barn is 140' from the house.
                    No problem there, except in a bad blizzard, where snow drifts pile there so high short me get highcentered trying to walk those 140' to the barn, where the tractor is stored.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jokersmama View Post
                      I'm voting for a wash rack in the empty stall but not winning that one yet, hubby wants to leave it open.
                      What are his reasons for wanting it "open" and what does he mean by that? My wash stall is concreted with a rear center drain, but save for a few times early on, it's only been used to store hay LOL Wash stalls with concrete floors can be very, very useful storage spaces when the need arises.

                      The back of it is T-111 over the frame, just like the rest of the barn, but I have considered at some point cutting holes in that and making a sliding hanging door for extra ventilation in the Summer.

                      1. What is your favorite feature in your barn?
                      That all 4 stalls have inside AND outside doors. Great ventilation. It's a basic 36x36 with an A-frame roof, no special ventilation features, but between the open end doors and the open stalls, stale are is never, ever a problem. Close things up and a huge amount of cold wind can be kept out.

                      That the stalls that are next to each other have removable dividers. Invaluable for foaling stalls, invaluable for stall rest. Just do it - no reason not to, and if you don't ever need a 12x24, you don't need it. But having permanent partitions means a heckuva lot of work to change that, or you just don't do it.

                      2. If you could change, or add anything to your barn, what would it be?
                      Probably nothing for my situation. 4 stalls, wash stall/storage, feed/tack room, 12' aisle, 12x12 stalls, outlets in the tack room and the front corner of the wash stall. Good lights over each stall, and the aisle

                      3. What type of flooring do you have in your stalls under the mats? What do you like or dislike about it?
                      Red clay topped with packed screened sandrock topped with mats. Love it.

                      4. What kind of bedding do you use in your stalls, and why?
                      My horses aren't in much, just breakfast daily, and the occasional night stay, rarely a full 24 hours or so if it's just really nasty weather. So, that affects how bedding works.

                      I started with shavings. For the horse who was on stall rest for an injury, it worked well for him, but as always, it generates a lot of full wheelbarrows and a growing compost pile. Once he was off stall rest, and once I had to put bedding in the other stalls for the occasional overnight stay, the bedding stagnates. It packs down if you just leave it, unless you regularly fluff it which causes dust. Over time, with them walking through it, it breaks down to icky dust. I tried to minimize the pulverizing by really banking the bedding unless/until needed, but that just resulted in packing down and in the Summer, molding at the bottom due to humidity.

                      I switched to wood pellets. Much better in terms of how much is removed from the stall. Also worse in terms of dust because of the very slow/infrequent turnover due to minimal use.

                      I switched to straw pellets - Streufex. Less work, as you *do not* wet them to begin with. The particles are larger and heaver than wood, so what dust does generate tends to not get as high in the air and stays less time. So, for me and my situation, this works by far the best. It also breaks down VERY quickly, more quickly than wood pellets

                      The aisle is concrete - love it. If slickeness is an issue, rubber would be better.

                      If your horses are in for longer periods of time on a regular basis and you get hot weather, consider either industrial quality fans over each stall, or something like a Big Ass fan at one end or the other to really push air around for more ventilation

                      If your setup allows it, have the outside doors open to their turnout. My barn is within perimeter fencing, so if anyone escapes, they aren't OUT. I can also allow them in and out of the barn without having to catch and lead. There are times when I don't want them roaming around the barn area, and I have a fence that separates the barn area from the rest of the pasture. It's a short walk from the barn, so even when I have to catch and lead, the time is short. Of course, mine all go out together, so that helps.

                      If you are going to put a hydrant in the barn, do it BEFORE the concrete is put in Use a hose that will easily reach to the farthest possible corner of the barn, but don't bother with something longer - just more to coil up and drain. If you happen to need something longer for something, you can just attach a 2nd hose (and really, there are never enough hoses LOL). Hang water buckets so you can fill them from the shortest distance possible. This is another good reason to have exterior doors - you can just chuck old water out those doors if you want, instead of having to walk halfway down the barn aisle to do it.
                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                      • Original Poster

                        I'm loving all these great ideas, thank you!!

                        To answer a few questions:

                        We make our own hay (have been doing that for 9+ years now) and fill the neighbors hay loft with our hay for now, so we already have a hay elevator. We will be the ones stacking it. We fill it with the hay we need for the entire winter. We only have to feed hay from Oct-March, the rest of the time they are on pasture.
                        I have mentioned to hubby that being able to feed from the loft and drop it in the stalls would be very convenient, he is figuring out how to make that possible, if it doesn't happen it's not the end of the world but it sure would be nice.

                        My horses will only be in the barn during the really nasty night/days during the winter, for feeding, or for an injury situation. Other than that they are out 24/7 with access to a run in shelter.

                        The breeze way will be concrete, we will give it a rough finish so it's not so slippery, and if it proves to be slippery get more rubber mats.

                        My hubby wants to leave the last stall an "open stall" because he wants to raise the occasional pig to eat. My argument is we can still use it to raise a pig, and then have it a wash rack when we don't have a pig.

                        There will be doors to the outside on each stall, so we have the option of adding runs of we need them for some reason.

                        The walls between stalls with be removable also, just in case we need a 12x24 (or bigger) ever.

                        As for the manure, right now we pile it up to compost then use it up.

                        I'm leaning toward a concrete slab under the whole structure, so that would mean stalls also. They would have mats of course and not be in them for long periods of time. I understand the pros and cons of the concrete flooring in the stalls, but in our environment (flooding risk) I think the pros out number the cons. We will build the barn up of course, but you just never know.

                        Thanks again for the replies, keep 'em coming!


                        • #13
                          Many barns in Europe were bank barns, so hay was stored in the upper floor and fed thru holes against the wall, directly into hay mangers in each stall.

                          Very simple to manage in bank barns, with entrances directly at every level.
                          Not so easy to do when you have to walk up stairs to the loft.
                          Only "sound" people can go up those loft stairs to feed.
                          If you are ever crippled and your only hay is up there, you will need someone else feeding for you.

                          All barns in Europe I ever saw had concrete floors and the horses were fine on them 24/7, with good bedding management.
                          We didn't even have rubber mats then.
                          With them, I don't see why not at all.


                          • #14
                            I have dutch doors that open to an overhang providing plenty of shade. Mine have access to their corral all the time via the dutch doors. A huge aisle way is also a bonus.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by JB View Post
                              Hang water buckets so you can fill them from the shortest distance possible. This is another good reason to have exterior doors - you can just chuck old water out those doors if you want, instead of having to walk halfway down the barn aisle to do it.
                              Second this, even without my own barn. When I was a working student one summer when it was INSANELY hot, it made life so much easier in the stalls where the water buckets were hung so you didn't even have to go into the stall - you could just poke the hose through the bars and fill.

                              (The buckets did get removed and cleaned properly also, but it was so hot the horses were drinking so much that basically you'd do one loop of the whole barn doing the buckets and by the time you were done the first horse would need a top up. Having it so in most of the stalls you didn't have to mess with actually going in to get the bucket just to refill it meant you had a minute chance of getting everyone watered and then some time to do something else before you had to go around with the hose again.) (To be fair, I don't remember if some of them were playing with the water as opposed to drinking it, but with as hot as it was, they couldn't be left without water even if they were making a mess with it, so.)


                              • #16
                                I also have Nelson waterers in the stalls. Heaven. Easy to use, easy to clean, have never had an issue.

                                The horses also have free access to a 100 gallon water trough in their big turnout paddock that's adjacent to their runs. They do seem to prefer to drink from the trough in the summer, but use the waterers more in the winter. I have a frost free hydrant in front of the barn and another next to the fence by the trough. I have a short hose there, so no draining of long hoses in the winter. Just a quick disconnect attachment and a shake and that chore's done.

                                Unless it's really snowing and blowing I leave their stall dutch doors open all the time, and usually their 40 foot runs are open to the paddock all the time as well. It's pretty low maintenance, and I like that my horses can move around as much as they want, seeking shelter as needed. Of course they seem to prefer to stand out in the rain and snow, but at least I don't have to feel guilty when they do.


                                • Original Poster

                                  I'm really learning a lot!

                                  I've posted these same questions in several places on the web, and it seems the most common things people need are more power outlets, and lights, and warm water.

                                  Please keep the ideas coming, I love hearing what people love about their barn, and what they would change, it really helps me in my planning.


                                  • #18
                                    plan two doors to exit each stall in case of fire...

                                    install perodic places to shut off water in case of an underground water leak. We made that mistake and had to go "hunting" for a leak under concrete and 3 feet of packed clay.

                                    lighting!! The brighter the better!

                                    plan for twice the amount of storage you need
                                    Cornerstone Equestrian
                                    Home of Amazing (Balou du Rouet/Voltaire) 2005 KWPN Stallion
                                    RPSI, KWPN reg B, and IHF nominated


                                    • #19
                                      Make sure the electrical outlets are wired from a GFI. You want power to cut off if there is a problem with a fan or heated water bucket.
                                      We are in a cold weather climate and ALWAYS get a frozen hydrant during a severe cold spell....below 10F for a sustained period. We don't use heat tape because of fire hazard. Make sure there's room for insulation around your hydrant's stand pipe. We use bales of straw.

                                      I wish we had windows in the stalls. And I wish we had an overhang tall enough to park the trailer and tractor underneath.

                                      Oh hell...I wish we had a BIGGER barn. 24x40 gets crowded fast even with only 3 horses!
                                      Ride like you mean it.


                                      • #20
                                        If your center aisle is 12', that is enough, but see if for just a bit more you can make the structure, say, 2' wider and get 14' in the aisle.

                                        Many of the old Port-A-Stall modular barns were made with a 14' and 16' option for their center aisle and everyone I ever talked to absolutely loved the 16' best.
                                        The cost to more width was under a penny on the dollar more.

                                        The more room you have there, the easier and safer it is for the horses in the stalls, those walking by there in the aisle and the people working in there, especially if more than one, not even talking about being able to drive a sizeable truck and trailer or tractor thru there if needed.