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Compromises Come at a Cost When It Comes to Barn Safety

By Content Admin, 11/05/2018 - 9:14am

Blog By Nikki Alvin-Smith


As most of us are under some budget constraints when it comes to barn building there are many good reasons and great places you can cut costs in design of your new stabling project.

Cutting your expenses

However, there are many areas where cutting costs can result in much heartache down the road. Here are a few areas where you should not compromise. There is no point in saving dollars now to spend them on a vet call and medical expenses later or have a negative experience when utilizing your barn on a daily basis.

Remember these horse barn safety features when constructing your barn…

Making an Entrance ~ The Right Entrance

Stall doors should be a minimum of 4 feet wide to allow room for both handler and horse to enter and leave the stall without risk of hitting hips of the horse on the doorjamb or the handler being squished against the wall making an entrance. The entrance to any aisleway is also important as a narrow aisleway will make those turns difficult to complete without stopping the horse and turning him square to the door. A 12-foot aisleway is best for adult horses though you may wish to go wider if you run a busy boarding operation and have people passing each other going to and from the stalls.

Stall doors and aisle

Also consider adding a wash stall/tack up stall if you have a commercial horse operation as it adds much safety for horse and rider with the freedom of the aisle not being compromised for traffic through the barn.  A designated area for washing/grooming/tacking up also eliminates the need for horses having to pass each other while on crossties in the aisle.

Don’t Downsize the Stall

The size of the stalls themselves is fairly easy to figure out. Obviously a 17 h.h. warmblood will be more comfortable in a 12’ x 12’ stable space than a 10’ x 10’ stall.

Remember to plan for the future. If you have kids ponies now the chances are you’ll be housing horses later. Also, if you have plans down the road to sell the property a barn with small stalls will not add as much appeal or additional value as a barn with regular 12’ x 12’ loose boxes.

Space equals safety and sanity. The larger space makes it safer for caregivers to muck out while the horse is inside, and to work around the horse in general.

Horse in a Barn

The larger space also provides sanity for your horse, as he will be able to lie down comfortably, and lay flat if he wants to stretch out. It also means he will be able to mooch around the stall. If you put his hay in two piles, one on each side of the stall, he will move between them and he will have less tendency to gobble his hay at a rapid pace as soon as it arrives.

Also remember that space includes the height of the stall. A horse can contract poll evil if he repeatedly hits his head on the stall door jamb or ceiling. It is also bad for the horse’s posture to have to maintain his head in a low position all day. Also, the more height you can provide the better the air circulation will be in your barn.

Don’t forget to allow some space for hay and bedding storage in the barn. If you add an extra stall to your build you will soon fill it with supplies, but in a pinch you can also empty it for horse housing.

Sturdy Walls Make Good Neighbors

Just as good fences make good neighbors both in the horse and human world, the stall walls should also be made of sturdy materials. Kickboards should be placed to a height of at least four feet. These should be made of large dimensional lumber for added strength and walls may be braced for larger spans.

For stallions, youngstock and larger horses running the kickboards from floor to 6 or 7 feet high make sense, and a solid wall between stalls may also be preferred to keep horses from intimidating each other. Remember excited horses can and do rear in their stalls and can also become cast or kick out at a stall wall. The last thing you want is a punctured wall and a horse with ripped tendons.

Horse Barns Grills and Gates

Grills and Gates

Grills are a great way to aid ventilation in the barn and to provide better light. Be certain that the gap between bars is a maximum of 3 inches to avoid tiny foal feet becoming trapped between bars or horses biting each other. The gate to the stall or stall door should be a minimum of four feet high, and top edges should be protected from chewing by the equine occupant by a well-secured metal strip. Alternatively you can add a grill to the top half of the door.

With center aisleways sliding doors are safer than swinging doors as they provide no obstacle in the aisleway and will not swing and hit the horse as he makes his entry or exit to or from the stall.

Don’t Forget Air Quality

Ventilation is very important to your horse’s health. While a window in his stall is a great option for both light and ventilation, the roof should also be vented. You can go with cupolas that add a nice touch to the visual appeal of your building, but you can also save money and just go with a ridge vent.

Horse barn ventilation

Don’t Skimp on Site Preparation

Whatever type of barn you decide to build, it is beneficial to have the site properly prepared. The site should be level, and concrete pillars or supports must be prepared to the designated depth for the frost level in your area. You do not want your building to shift due to frost heave. Also ask your builder about anchoring your building for security during high winds or poor weather. 

If you add a concrete aisleway to your barn, add rubber mats on top to prevent horses slipping and injuring themselves during errant moments of excitement.

All doorways that exit to the outside of the building should have some type of footing added to prevent a mud hole at areas of high traffic. Stonedust will pack down nicely on top of a light gravel base. Do not use large gravel on the surface as it will become lodged in horse’s hooves especially if your horses are shod.

When you work with an experienced horse barn builder such as Horizon Structures, you have the significant advantage of their knowledge of where you can save money and where you need to not compromise your spend for reasons of safety or functionality of the structure.

Most folks begin with a dream barn design and quickly realize that their dream outweighs their pot of gold. The great advantage of modular builds is the flexibility in design that can be accomplished before you begin, so that your final price for the building is an accurate number. No cost overruns or unhappy surprises. A great company will provide innovative solutions for your particular needs and the wealth of experience their project team offers can be leveraged to capitalize on your ‘bang for the buck.’ Here’s some keen advice from Horizon Structures team members Denise Chesnet, Project Manager and Jill Siragusa, Chief Marketing Officer:

Denise Chesnet

Denise: To save on costs the most common things to eliminate are overhangs, metal roofs, wash stall, cupolas (replace with a less expensive ridge vent), and glass in the aisle doors. Customers will also add or eliminate paint or stain later in a project. If you are looking to minimize your spend then typically Low Profiles offer tons of versatility at a great price.

 

Jill Siragusa

Jill: Cutting costs (saving money) may mean sticking to the Standard Features – building a ‘plain Jane’ barn and adding ‘extras’ later. Other features to look at for lowering the barn price could be stall size or buying a barn without a loft and using other areas to store hay – an extra stall for example.
When working on a tight budget, I tell people they can save money by having a local contractor add extras like the electrical system for example.
I agree with Denise, a Low Profile barn is a great value. Or, a shed row barn with an overhang that can be modified later - such as enclosing part of the overhang to create extra storage or another stall.

Try to anticipate future needs rather than buying only what you need right now.  Add as much storage space as you can afford. Get 3 stalls even if you only have 2 horses, etc. It is 'cheaper' to pay for these types of things to be built into your barn on Day 1 than to try to add them on later!

Nikki Alvin Smith

Nikki Alvin-Smith is a seasoned freelance writer who loves to share her lifelong experience with everything horse, farm and travel. Her work has been printed in more than two hundred equestrian magazine titles worldwide and her published articles number in the thousands including travel and lifestyle press.

A Brit who has called New York home for more than 37 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to her writing.

Her experience as an international level Grand Prix dressage competitor, coach and worldwide clinician, with a youth spent showjumping and foxhunting, provides lots of educational truths and fun moments to share with the reader. Additionally she has been a horse breeder/importer of Hanoverian, Dutch and Iberian horses for 25+ years.

Together with her husband Paul, also a Grand Prix dressage rider, she lives in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York and operates an organic hay farm and dressage yard. She is the proud mother of three children, Tristan, James and Chelsea (twins), and the latter two have kept with the horse riding as adults.