Monday, July 22, 2013

Good Horse Barn Design

Editors note:   After I posted this I realized I forgot to say these are all the things I want in my barn if money was no object.   Obviously there is always compromise between cost and dreams.  But one can dream!

I think about good barn design a lot.   I love to tour people's barns and make notes in my head of the parts I like so one day when I have a big equestrian farm, I can build a well though out perfectly designed barn... with no thought to the cost of course!

Good barn design is like choosing a good spouse.  There are as many opinions about what makes a good barn as there are opinions about what makes a good man.   Ask one of my friends about her hay loft and she will tell you that she loves hers... Ask another friend and she wishes she could move her loft out of her barn.

Here are some of my thoughts and some pictures I took at some local barns.  This is not definitive - some will agree and some will not but its what I would do if I could design a new barn.

I like the hay storage in the barn but not in a loft.  I have terrible knees and climbing a ladder to get to the hay is torture.  Even climbing stairs is no fun so having the hay on the same floor as the stalls is ideal.
Barn with feed and hay room on ground level
Nice ventilation above stalls

This is the barn that I am using now.   The door to the right leads to the hay room and the door to the left leads the tack and feed room.  I like this setup but if I was building my own barn, I would make the tack/feed room smaller and put the feed in the same room as the hay.  The smaller tack room would allow me to possibly heat and do some dehumidifying so tack has less risk of becoming moldy.  Having a room dedicated to tack would also limit the amount of dust and debris.   

When interviewing my friends for this blog, some love their hay lofts primarily for the ample amount of storage it provides and the easy access to stalls if you cut holes in the floor above each stall to drop the hay.

Ventilation and Airflow
Of all the items on the checklist this is probably the most important.   I like barns that have airflow above the stalls -- another reason why I am not a fan of the hay loft (although you will find many people who love them).    Another important item is how you place your barn.   Depending on where you place your stalls, you want to think about if you place your barn North/South or East/West.   The North tends to have more wind flow (good in the summer/bad in the winter).  The South tends to have more sun and may be hotter so if your stalls face the South be sure you have the ability to shut the windows during hot weather.  
There is no right or wrong answer to how you place your barn.  It depends on what you want, where you place "rooms" inside the barn and how you plan around the natural elements.  For example, if you are able to close a door or window against the North winds, then facing your aisleway towards the North may be a good idea so you can get the breeze in the summer and close against the winter winds.

Another element of ventilation is keeping the heat down in stalls in the summer.  I recently visited Charleston, South Carolina and experienced a lovely carriage ride through the city.  When we returned to the barn, I asked the driver (not sure what you call that person... probably there is some fancy name) about the ways they keep the horses cool in such a hot climate.   He said they installed misting fans last year and it dropped the temperature in the barn by ten degrees.   So in addition to the typical fans, if I was designing a perfect barn, I would consider adding misters to drop the temps for both riders and horses.  (Wonder if we could install misters in the riding arena?)

The barn I have at my house is a bank barn and I think that concept works great.   The top level has storage and the bottom is a run in and stalls.  The stalls are so nice and cool, at least ten degrees cooler than the air on the second floor. In the winter they stay warmer as well.  This is all due to them being under ground and using the natural insulation powers of the Earth.

Bank Barn top floor
Bank barn bottom floor
One way of keeping the summer sun from beating in the stalls is putting the run in outside the stalls.  This also allows you to easily put horses in stalls in as each stall has a door to the pasture via the run in.

Nice run in outside stall doors
Flooring and Walls
My girlfriend was building a barn a few years ago and she said she was going to tile the walls.  I thought she was nuts.   I had NEVER seen that before and figured there must be reason.   Turns out it was a good idea.  The barn even a few years into use looks brand new and clean.  She simply hoses the walls off and they look great.

Barn Walls with Tile
For flooring in the stalls, the combination rubber mats over washed gravel cannot be beat.  For flooring in the aisleways I think there are a number of good choices.  I don't know anyone that has done it but the interlocking rubber pavers is one that I would put at the top of my list to consider (if cost wasn't an issue - they are expensive).   Brick looks nice, cleans up nicely , has some grip for the horses, and is durable.  My friend who used brick pavers likes how its held up so far but there are marks from the horses hooves.   Concrete aisles are a good, inexpensive option that also is durable and cleans up well.  If I had the concrete I would put rubber mats where I groomed as I have seen horses slip when startled and hit their knees.

When I asked my friends what they liked, everything from a brushed dirt aisle to blue stone came back as answers.   Again... as many choices for barns as there are for spouses.

Brick barn floor

Other Items
I like an opening to dump feed.  Its great when you have a horse that is a bit greedy for his food and even for the ones that are polite, it saves time to be able to dump through an opening rather than going into the stall.

Feeding opening into stall
Blanket bars outside each stall are helpful in the winter when you have to remove and put on winter blankets and make a handy drying station for dripping pads after riding in the summer.

Water from a frost free faucet inside the barn and at each outside paddock cannot be underestimated.  The barn I am at now has water in both locations.   At home I don't have that luxury and run a hose from the house.   That means in the winter I have to blow out the hose after each use and even then I sometimes get a frozen hose.

Ample electric outlets are very important to prevent having to use extension cords (dangerous and inconvenient).

And one last thing.  ... I like a barn that has access to the pasture to eliminate the need to walk horses from pasture to barn.  That's not always possible depending on how your barn is situated but its something I will try to do.

I'd love to hear about must have items in YOUR barn design.

Blanket bar on each stall

Water spigot at paddock

Water source in barn


  1. Oh My goodness, I redesign my barn every other day! If money were a non issue, I would love to build my dream farm. I like the idea of a hay loft but would rather have open airflow above my stalls. If I could afford it, I would build a barn tall enough to have hay storage only above the center aisle, that way I still have the airflow and easy access to feeding as well as a hay loft. But at the moment, I will probably have a second building for mass hay storage and a small area in my stall barn for a weeks supply. An enclosed tack room and an enclosed feed/storage room are both extremely important as well. I need to be able to lock up tack/equipment and medication/feed. Separate tack rooms for myself, lessons, and boarders would be nice but that probably wont happen in my first barn. I could go on and on about this...I absolutly love designing equestrian facilities.

    Oh the facility I could build without financial constraints.

  2. Is it crazy that I recognize all of these barns lol?

  3. There are some great ideas on here. I would love to have a water source like that in my barn. The only hose I have is outside the barn, but I think it would be a lot easier if I had a hose inside the barn. It would make clean up a lot easier.


I love to get feedback and hear about your journey-- please share!