From building codes to the right equipment, you need to keep a lot of details in mind when planning your dream horse stall barn. To help you stay organized, here are twelve expert tips to consider when building horse stalls. (We also include bonus horse barn ideas.)
As a horse enthusiast, you probably already know your dream horse barn would have a tack room near the cross ties and a shower in the bathroom.
But have you thought about your horse stall space? How are you going to ventilate your building? How will you organize and store your horse feed and equipment? Answering questions like these is crucial to the planning process.
How to Build a Horse Stall: The Most Important Part
Your first priority should be to evaluate your own level of expertise. If you’re going to approach the effort from a DIY perspective, you really need to think about what you’re comfortable and capable of taking on.
“A lot of people don’t understand what goes into a horse barn unless they’re true horse people,” says Tim Noble, an experienced horse barn builder out of Kentucky. “People don’t know what they’re getting into.”
Tips for Building Your Dream Horse Barn
With Noble’s insights, the following twelve tips will help you plan your horse stall barn so that your building will be as effective, organized, and comfortable as possible — for you and your horses.
While we address topics specific to horse stalls in this post, we also consider how those stalls relate to the overall structure of your building (see the bonus ideas below).
1. Think Long-Term With Your Horse Stall Plans
It’s true: People with horses often tend to end up with more horses. That’s why if you currently have four horses, you may want to build a half dozen stalls in your new horse barn.
You could use the extra stalls as storage space in the meantime. (After all, who doesn’t need more storage space?)
And even if you don’t build the added stalls today, you should plan for future growth. “A lot of people think, ‘We’ll do things later,’” says Noble. “But even if you’re going to do it later, you should think it through now and design accordingly.”
2. Build Bigger Stalls and Wider Aisleways
In Noble’s experience, a 10-foot by 10-foot stall is usually too small. “I encourage a 12-foot by 12-foot stall.” It’s also important that your aisleways have plenty of space. A 14-foot aisleway is your best option, as a 12-foot can feel cramped.
Yes, these options will increase upfront costs. But they’ll spare you a lot of regret if you end up wanting them later, says Noble.
3. Consider a Mat System for Horse Stall Flooring
Flooring is a critical consideration when planning your stall barn. Granular base material is commonly used in aisles and stalls, often covered with rubber mats for horse comfort. Concrete and brick pavers may be used in aisles.
Noble is a big proponent of a mat system called Stable Comfort. “People use less bedding with them, and they require little or no maintenance,” he says. “Once they’re in, they’re in.”
4. Determine Which Type of Horse Stall Design Works Best
Horse stall designs are typically based on one of the following types:
Interior column type. Interior barn columns hold up rafters which support the roof.
Clear span type. Trusses span the width of the building and do not require interior columns to support the roof.
Stalls can be attached to an interior column, or you can have a free-standing stall, which works in a clear span design. Free-standing stalls attach to each other (instead of a column) for stability.
5. Add a Horse Wash Stall
For a place to wash horses, dedicate a stall space to a drainage system and an overhead hose. Having an interior wash stall allows you to wash down and groom your horse easily, no matter the weather.
A concrete floor and drain, covered with rubber mats, provides a good surface and footing for the wash stall.
Noble typically builds a wash bay with hot and cold water, and a frost-free fixture that goes into the wall.
6. Dedicate Space for a Tack Room
Your horse stall layout should also have space for a tack room, an essential area for immediate access to your bridles, saddles, blankets, brushes, and other necessary equipment.
However, you may want to install a door and close it off. You don’t want your valuable equipment to be exposed to too much dust.
7. Ensure Your Horse Stalls Have Adequate Airflow
While lumber and steel will comprise the majority of your structure, ventilation features can play a significant role in your horse stall barn’s performance. Installing a good ventilation system in your roof is smart for any structure, but it’s absolutely critical for your horse stall barn.
A well-designed ventilation system helps get rid of moisture, keeping the outside and inside of the building in optimal condition. Moreover, it cycles fresh air through your building, which is better for the horses and the people who’ll be spending a lot of time in your horse barn.
Horse barn builder Tim Noble is not a big fan of using moisture sensors to modulate ventilation. “You’re better off designing adequate ventilation throughout the building,” he says, adding that it should be with cross ventilation, where doors are open and can pull air through the barn.
For larger horse barns with more stalls, airflow can be aided by a product like “Big Ass” fans. These 3- to 8-foot overhead fans can really move air throughout a facility.
PRO TIP: Don’t worry about normal winter weather temperatures when ventilating your building, as well-fed horses generate plenty of heat. They won’t freeze to death if exposed to normal winter elements inside a well-designed stall barn.
However, Noble does recommend a rigid insulation board called ThermMax for stall barns. It helps retain temperature and keep the elements out.
For more on this topic, see Pole Barn Ventilation: How to Achieve Good Air Quality in Your Post-Frame Building (And Why It’s So Important).
8. Use Horse Stall Fans for More Ventilation Options
Some horse owners will install overhead horse stall fans to cool their animals. These are mounted at the top of stalls and blow down into them.
You can program your horse stall fans to react to temperature and humidity automatically, or you can manage them manually.
9. Shoot for the Ideal Horse Stall Doors (Sliding Doors)
Sliding doors make less noise than overhead electric garage doors, which means there’s a lower chance of spooking your horses.
Your sliding door will typically be either one piece and slide in one direction, or split in the middle. If you choose a split slider, the two door halves slide away from each other.
They’re also the most cost-effective type of door. Check out Which Type of Door is Best for Your Pole Barn? for more information.
10. Horse Barn Stall Windows Add Some Natural Lighting for Your Horse Stalls
There are several options for getting natural light into your stall barn. One great option is adding Dutch doors or horse stall windows in your stalls. These provide light in the building and add an additional source of ventilation.
Fixed windows can also be added to your sliding doors, which provide light into the entry area and center aisle. Also consider an eave light, which is typically a 2-foot long polycarbonate panel placed under the eave of the building.
The more natural light that enters, the better. It saves you from using your electrical lighting during daylight hours.
PRO TIP: One option for more light is to make use of your stall door. Opt for a Dutch door, and make the top half glass. You can add grilles on the bottom half to allow for ventilation.
11. Store Your Hay in a Nearby Building
This is a safety precaution. Although it is rare, hay in horse barns can spontaneously combust and cause a fire. Because hay burns quickly, there will be little time for you to react before it harms your horses.
Here’s a great video that explains why hay catches fire.
12. Plan for Water and Food Storage
It’s important to consider how your horse will get food and water. Noble notes that some people do a tack feed room, which is separate from a tack room for saddles and other equipment.
“People like to keep those separate, and temperature-control the tack room so the leather doesn’t get moldy,” he says.
For water, Noble typically installs automatic horse waterers in the stalls. This includes a water supply and heater that goes into the bowl. As the horse drinks, the water bowl fills up.
Bonus Horse Barn Ideas for a Better Performing Building
We’ve covered a lot of ground on creating a great horse stall barn. But there’s still a lot more to consider. Keeping these additional ideas in mind can help you invest in a durable structure that also lets you get more use — and enjoyment — from your horse barn.
Make sure the building is properly engineered and built
Don’t underestimate the importance of a well-engineered horse barn. Where do you start? Working with a reputable building company that uses construction standards designed by licensed professional engineers is a good first step.
A smart horse barn builder will situate your building appropriately. For example, a level site is instrumental for the construction crew to build your structure easily and efficiently.
Closely related, your site should include a solid drainage system and other features that prevent moisture from infiltrating your building in the first place. (See below for more on this topic.)
Also, hiring a good crew can be critical. They’ll understand the engineering behind a building’s design and will adhere to the specific guidelines set by the designer. If they don’t, the building’s durability will suffer.
Identify possible interior sources of moisture
Your pole barn design should take into account the potential sources of moisture that will be produced inside the building. In addition to the horses themselves, here are some other common sources:
- Fill dirt
- Poor drainage
- High groundwater table
- Unvented heaters
To gain more insights on preventing condensation, be sure to read How to Prevent
Condensation Under a Metal Roof: The Enemy Within.
Use Durable Materials
Don’t be tempted to skimp on quality building materials for your horse stall barn. Lumber, steel, doors, and windows — these will be your four most important components. And they all can vary widely in their quality.
For example, you’ll want to use reliable, high-quality lumber that’s machine graded or machine evaluated.
For durable steel, you’ll want to use full-hard steel, with 80,000 PSI hardness or better. This results in less dents. You should also make sure your exterior steel is G-90 galvanized for better corrosion protection.
And when it comes to your paint’s performance on that steel exterior, look for a 40-year warranty not to chip or crack.
Consider a horse arena for indoor riding and training facilities
What’s your budget, and just what are your horse riding ambitions? You may want to look for a horse barn builder who specializes in buildings with wide open spaces — spaces like large equestrian riding arenas and training facilities.
Horse barns with living quarters
If horses are a big part of your life, you may want to think about including living quarters in your horse barn. What you opt for will depend not only on your budget but also the building codes in your area.
That said, it’s not out of the ordinary for horse barns these days to have kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms — even lounges, viewing rooms, and clubhouses with shower and laundry facilities.
Don’t forget about horse run-in sheds
Okay, so we’ve left the confines of the horse barn itself, but your horses won’t be spending all of their time inside.
When your horse is turned out on pasture, an affordable run-in shed provides comfort and shelter from rain, snow, and wind, plus shade from the sun in summer.
You can likely choose from several standard sizes and designs from a horse barn builder, or you can design your own.
Remember the small horse barn option
No one says you have to go big! Smaller horse barns are ideal if you have around two to four horses and not a lot of property. Plus, even with a smaller size, you can still include:
- 2 to 4 stalls
- A wash stall/area
- Storage space for feed/bedding
- A tack room/area
The actual size of a small horse barn depends on the number of horses you have and how you want to care for them. For example, you may want to have a large run-in or overhang area that provides sun/weather protection too.
Interested in Horse Stall Building Plans or Horse Stall Construction?
Planning and building horse stalls can be an ambitious endeavor. If you’re interested in working with a builder to help you with the design and overall construction, click here to find a builder in your area.